South China Sea: Lorenzana on 'developing' relationships
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The Taiwanese Defense Ministry claimed to have spotted 11 Chinese jets on Saturday, including eight fighter aircraft, an anti-submarine aircraft and two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, near the Pratas Islands. Tensions between the two countries were already high as Beijing had been conducting drills in the disputed region on Friday.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Beijing’s naval forces also took part in Saturday’s activity but did not explain further.
On Saturday, a spokesman for the US State Department reaffirmed previous calls for China “to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan.”
He added Beijing should “instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.”
The news comes after China flew a squadron of fighter jets in Taiwan’s air defence region on Friday.
Four J-16s and four JH-7s, and an electronic warfare aircraft, flew into the country’s defence zone near the Pratas Islands in the southwestern region of its air space.
Consequently, Taiwan’s airforce was ordered to trigger it’s missile mechanism and sent radio warnings, according to Taiwan’s Defence Ministry.
China said the incursion was its response to what it believes is “collusion” between Taiwan, which Beijing claims as Chinese territory, and the United States.
The Biden administration has no diplomatic ties with Taipei but has vowed to continue giving it its “rock solid” backing.
The US is currently Taiwan’s most powerful arms supplier.
In his first telephone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 10, US President Joe Biden expressed his concerns about China’s hostility towards Taipei.
In a statement published by the White House after the conversation, Mr Biden said: “I spoke today with President Xi to offer good wishes to the Chinese people for lunar new year.
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“I also shared concerns about Beijing’s economic practices, human rights abuses, and coercion of Taiwan.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has vowed to defend Taiwan’s independence and is determined to oversea an overhaul of the military.
This includes developing a fleet of new submarines, buying new F-16 fighters from the United States and upgrading its warships.
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