Taiwan reports 49 Chinese warplanes in airspace amid military drills

IANS Photo

Taipei, May 24 (IANS/DPA) Taiwan's Defence Ministry on Friday said it had registered 49 Chinese warplanes in Taiwan's airspace within 24 hours, the highest number of Chinese daily sorties so far this year.

Among them, 35 Chinese military aircraft were spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

In addition, the ministry said it had detected 19 Chinese navy vessels and seven Chinese coast guard ships operating around Taiwan on Thursday.

China on Thursday launched a two-day major military exercise around Taiwan, apparently to simulate a blockade around the island.

On Friday, Taiwan's Air Force also released photos and videos taken on Thursday, which showed the activities of Chinese Navy vessels and coast guard ships in the waters west of Taiwan.

The Chinese military exercises came three days after the inauguration of Taiwan's new President, Lai Ching-te, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have risen since presidential and legislative elections were held in democratic Taiwan in January.

DPP on Thursday said that China's insistence on launching military exercises against Taiwan, despite high international concerns, not only showed its authoritarian nature but also "destroyed the status quo."

In the parliament, the DPP caucus on Friday condemned China's unilaterally altering the status quo, demanding an immediate halt of the drills.

On Monday, Lai said that peace, mutual benefits, and prosperous coexistence would be common goals for both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

A Chinese naval Colonel said on Thursday that conducting such military exercises was also "a severe punishment for the separatist forces of Taiwan independence and a serious warning against interference and provocation by outside forces."

Taiwan has had an independent government since 1949, but China considers the self-ruled democracy part of its territory.