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Taipei scrambles jets over China warship

Reuters file photo

China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier and an accompanying fleet conduct a drill in the South China Sea last December.

ReutersTAIPEI (Reuters) — Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships on Wednesday as a group of Chinese warships led by China’s sole aircraft carrier sailed north through the Taiwan Strait, the latest sign of heightened tensions between Beijing and self-ruled Taiwan.

The Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier, returning from exercises in the South China Sea, was not trespassing in Taiwan’s territorial waters but entered its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the southwest, Taiwan’s defense ministry said.

As a result, Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships to “surveil and control” the passage of the Chinese ships through the narrow body of water separating Taiwan and China, Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said.

Taiwanese military aircraft and ships have been deployed to follow the carrier group, which is sailing up the west side of the median line of the strait, he said.

Taiwan’s top policymaker for China affairs on Wednesday urged Beijing to resume dialogue with Taipei after official communication channels were halted by Beijing from June.

“I want to emphasize our government has sufficient capability to protect our national security. It’s not necessary to overly panic,” said Chang Hsiao-yueh, minister for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, during a news briefing in response to reporters’ questions on the Liaoning’s movements.

“On the other hand, any threats would not benefit cross-Strait ties,” she said.

China has said the Liaoning aircraft carrier was on drills to test weapons and equipment in the disputed South China Sea and its movements comply with international law.

The latest Chinese naval exercises have unnerved Beijing’s neighbors, especially Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, given long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

China distrusts Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and has stepped up pressure on her after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump broke years of diplomatic protocol and took a congratulatory call last month from Tsai.

Trump then riled China by casting doubt on the “one China” policy that Beijing regards as the basis of U.S.-Chinese relations.

Bomber circles disputed isles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A Chinese H-6 strategic bomber flew around the Spratly Islands at the weekend in a new show of force in the contested South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

It was the second such flight by a Chinese bomber in the South China Sea this year. The first was on Jan. 1, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The flight could be seen as a show of “strategic force” by the Chinese, the official said.

It comes after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has signaled a tougher approach to China when he takes office on Jan. 20, with tweets criticizing Beijing for its trade practices and accusing it of failing to help rein in nuclear-armed North Korea.

Cmdr. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said he had no specific comment on China’s recent bomber activities, but added, “We continue to observe a range of ongoing Chinese military activity in the region.”

In December, China flew an H-6 bomber along the “nine-dash line” it uses to map its claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, a strategic global trade route. That flight also went around Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province.Speech

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