Taiwan flexes back: War fears surge as fighter jets target Chinese simulation over Strait

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The exercises were intended to reinforce Taiwan’s military readiness ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of this month. Chinese aircraft have repeatedly entered Taiwan’s airspace over the past several years.

Taiwan’s Major Yen Hsiang-sheng told reporters: “With the very high frequency of Communist planes entering our ADIZ, pilots from our wing are very experienced and have dealt with almost all types of their aircraft.”

Tensions between Beijing and Taipei escalated over recent months after China conducted military exercises close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.

In January last year, a total of 15 Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighter jets, entered the southern part of Taiwan and the Pratas Island.

A further eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets entered Taiwan’s ADIZ.

Taiwan has long been a tense subject for China since a separate government was established on the island following the Chinese Civil War in 1949. It remains an important ally of Western countries.

There are fears that, under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing will use military force to reunify Taiwan with mainland China.

In July, China held a set of D-Day-style military drills simulating an invasion of Taiwan as tensions between the nations escalated.

Pressure is mounting on ‘Quad’ members – including Australia, Japan, India and the US – to counter against China’s dominance over Taiwan.

The South China Sea is a highly contested region and faces claims from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Diplomatic relations between the nations are already extremely strained.

Over recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls.

In April last year, Taiwan unveiled a new amphibious warfare ship to land troops in the disputed region.

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The huge 10,600-tonne ship – named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain Yu Shan – is the latest part of Taipei’s programme to modernise its armed forces amid growing tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said: “I believe that this ship will certainly strengthen the navy’s ability to fulfil its mission and further solidify our defences.”

Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship will enter service this year.

CSBC chairman Cheng Wen-lung added how the vessel – which is large enough for landing craft and helicopters – will be used for transport to Taiwan’s possession in the South China Sea.

He also warned the ship will have an “amphibious warfare mission” if a war breaks out in the contested region.

Mr Wen-lung said: “During wartime it will have an amphibious warfare mission, bringing in reinforcements and fighting to retake offshore islands.

“It can carry out various battle missions on its own out at sea for a long time.”

He added how the ship has a “stealthy exterior” and electromagnetic pulse protection.

The ship will be equipped with a cannon for use against air and surface targets as well as anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.

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