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21 Chinese aircraft detected by Taiwan’s defence ministry

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Taiwan’s defence ministry detected 21 Chinese military aircraft around the island since 8:15 am (0015 GMT) on Saturday (April 20), a month before Taiwan’s May 20 inauguration of incoming president Lai Ching-te.

“Around 17 aircraft (of the 21) crossed the center line and its extension, entered our northern, central, and southwestern (air defence identification zone), and joined PLA vessels for joint combat patrol,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

“The Taiwan’s armed forces are keeping a close watch on the activities with our joint surveillance systems, and have dispatched appropriate assets to respond accordingly,” it further said.

The median line bisects the Taiwan Strait, a narrow 180-kilometre (110-mile) waterway separating the island from mainland China.

It is worth mentioning here that, Beijing does not recognise the median line as it claims self ruled Taiwan as part of its territory. China has also never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Under the administration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, tensions between Beijing and Taipei have ramped up, as she and her government do not acknowledge China’s claim. 

Taiwan’s Vice President Lai secured victory in January elections, defying China’s warnings that he would lead Taiwan to war and decline.

Previously known for his vocal support of Taiwanese independence, Lai has taken a more moderate stance in recent years, though China still considers him a “dangerous separatist.”

Earlier on Friday (April 19), China’s aviation regulator – the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) – said that it had opened new air routes to the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou with flight paths situated very close to the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen and Matsu.

Taiwan condemned Beijing’s announcement by saying the decision to open new air routes that run close to two Taiwanese-controlled islands was a flight safety risk taken without consultation.

“They want us to cave in, make compromises and change our behaviour,” a senior official from Taipei told Reuters.

In January, Taiwan expressed anger after China unilaterally changed a flight path called M503 close to the sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait. The median line has for years served as an unofficial demarcation between Chinese-claimed Taiwan and China and was not crossed by combat aircraft from either side.

However, Beijing has said it does not recognise the line’s existence and Chinese warplanes regularly fly over it.

(With inputs from agencies)

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