China launches military jets into Taiwan airspace after Tsai meeting

Written by Staff Writer by Coral Davenport, CNN

Taiwan scrambled fighters into the area Thursday night as Chinese warplanes flew in a “provocative” “highly unprofessional” manner close to the island in response to President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with leaders from the region, the Taiwanese military said Friday.

Tsai met with Chinese Central Military Commission Chairman Fang Fenghui and foreign ministry secretary general Li Zhaoxing in Beijing to discuss hot-button issues such as cross-strait relations and economic development.

Tensions rose again between the two sides on Monday after China warned Tsai not to make any statements that could be perceived as a threat in what China said was a “disturbing” move.

Tsai has stressed that the meeting with the top Chinese leadership was not political but was intended to mend the battered relationship between the nations.

But it has reinvigorated tensions between the former Chinese territories, especially in the air. The military said in a statement that on Thursday evening two Chinese J-10 fighters flew very close to Taiwan and twice Chinese Su-35 aircraft flew into the country’s vicinity and briefly entered its airspace.

The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense later added that fighter planes patrolled the airspace immediately afterwards. The military also said the Chinese jets sounded their anti-aircraft guns but never crossed the operational boundary marked by Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, which is equivalent to the territorial airspace of an independent country.

Fly or ‘visit’ row

Earlier this month, a military report warned that if the military refused to allow China to “visit or engage” in the Taiwan airspace, China would “retaliate by threat to attack if Taiwanese fighters responded with threats and fireworks.”

Taiwan on Friday reiterated its decision to let the Chinese jets fly past and only escort them out when they entered its airspace.

Tsai was also targeted in a Jan. 13 report by Beijing’s state-run newspaper the Global Times. The English version of the article said Beijing “could take measures to impose a common disaster on Taiwan” if Tsai traveled to the mainland.

Chung Chi-hui, the assistant secretary general of Taiwan’s government-controlled newspaper, the Central News Agency, said Tsai’s movements across the strait were completely normal and “no consideration is given for what is the purpose of her trip.”

“If this is the purpose of her trip, I think I would feel stressed out,” Chung said.

China and Taiwan split following a civil war in 1949. Taiwan’s military would protect its president from any possible attack, Chung said.

Strategic positioning

The Chinese military said earlier this month it was deploying a 20,000-strong military force around the Pacific to build up its maritime operations and contend with potential threats from Taiwan, the United States and other allies around the world.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province. However, Beijing is trying to foster closer ties with the self-governing island, which it sees as a chance to cement its claims to Asia-Pacific islands and other resources.

China’s Xi met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo Thursday. However, the Japanese press reported that no Chinese jets flew within 1,500 kilometers (965 miles) of Tokyo’s airspace.

News reports from Israel say China is also deploying anti-ship missiles in the waters between the island and another disputed island, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in October were protecting its territorial rights.

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