Taiwan-China tensions ratchet up week before presidential inauguration

TAIPEI: Taiwan reported Chinese forces were carrying out another “combat patrol” near the island on Tuesday (May 14), including sending aircraft across the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive median line, as tensions rise a week before a new Taiwanese president takes office.

Over the past four years, China’s military has significantly ramped up its activities around democratically governed Taiwan. Beijing views the island as its own territory, a position the government in Taipei strongly rejects.

Taiwan’s President-elect Lai Ching-te will be inaugurated next Monday following his election in January. Beijing has labelled Lai a “dangerous separatist” and has rejected repeated offers for talks.

Addressing the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in a pre-recorded message on Tuesday, Lai said he would work to safeguard to the status quo across the strait.

“I will not rule out dialogue with China on the principles of mutual respect, mutual benefits and dignity, with no preconditions,” he said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said that starting at 5pm (9am GMT), it had spotted 23 Chinese military aircraft, including advanced Su-30 fighters, carrying out “joint combat readiness patrols” in conjunction with warships.

A total of 15 of the Chinese aircraft crossed the strait’s median line, or areas nearby, and flew into airspace to the north, centre and southwest of Taiwan, the ministry said.

The median line previously served as an unofficial border between the two sides, but Chinese military aircraft now regularly cross it. China says it does not recognise the line’s existence.

This is at least the third time in the space of a month Taiwan has reported a Chinese “joint combat readiness patrol”.

China’s defence ministry did not answer calls seeking comment outside of office hours.

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