World China begins military drills as senior U.S. official visits Taiwan amid rising tensions
Almost 40 Chinese warplanes breach Taiwan Strait median line
Taiwan's President has accused Beijing of purposefully inflaming tensions in East Asia, after Chinese warplanes crossed the sensitive median line across the narrow strait that separates the mainland and the self-governing island almost 40 times on Friday and Saturday. © Ministry of National Defence Taiwan Defense Ministry photo shows an Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force H-6 bomber intercepted by Taiwanese fighters on Friday.
By Yew Lun Tian and Ben Blanchard
BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China began combat drills near the Taiwan Strait on Friday, the same day a senior U.S. official began high-level meetings in Taipei, as tensions rose and Beijing denounced tightening ties between Chinese-claimed Taiwan and the United States.
Beijing has watched with growing alarm the ever-closer relationship between Taipei and Washington, and has stepped up military exercises near the island, including two days of mass air and sea drills last week.
Taiwan's armed forces strain in undeclared war of attrition with China
Taiwan's armed forces strain in undeclared war of attrition with ChinaKAOHSIUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited a low-key but critical maintenance base for fighter jet engines on Saturday, offering encouragement as the Chinese-claimed island's armed forces strain in the face of repeated Chinese air force incursions.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Friday's drills, about which he gave no details, were taking place near the Taiwan Strait and involved the People's Liberation Army's eastern theatre command.
"They are a reasonable, necessary action aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Ren said.
Taiwan is a purely internal Chinese affair that brooks no foreign interference, he added.
"Recently the United States and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities have stepped up their collusion, frequently creating disturbances," Ren said, referring to Taiwan's ruling party.
US holds its second high-profile visit to Taiwan in two months as Beijing escalates military pressure
A high-profile United States official is visiting Taiwan for the second time in two months, the latest sign of warming ties between Washington and Taipei, as Beijing escalates pressure on the self-governed island through a series of military drills and aircraft incursions. © PEI CHEN/AFP/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Keith Krach, US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, alights from an aircraft after landing at the Songshan airport in Taipei on September 17.
Trying to "use Taiwan to control China" or "rely on foreigners to build oneself up" is wishful thinking and doomed to be a dead end, he added.
"Those who play with fire will get burnt," he said.
Taiwan's government did not immediately respond.
Taiwan's Liberty Times newspaper said Taiwan air force jets scrambled 17 times on Friday morning over four hours, warning China's air force to stay away.
It also showed a picture of missiles being loaded onto an F-16 at the Hualien air base on Taiwan's east coast.
Hu Xijin, editor of China's widely read state-backed Global Times tabloid, wrote on his Weibo microblog that the drills were preparation for an attack on Taiwan should the need arise, and that they were valuable experience, enabling gathering of intelligence about Taiwan's defensive systems.
"If the U.S. secretary of state or defence secretary visits Taiwan, People's Liberation Army fighters should fly over Taiwan island, and directly exercise in the skies above it," he added.
China Will 'Start a Just War' If U.S. Troops Return to Taiwan, State-affiliated Media Warns
Global Times editor Hu Xijn tweeted a Military Review article which called for the U.S. to look at basing ground troops on the island.Hu Xijn tweeted his disdain at the piece written by Capt. Walker D. Mills, from the U.S. Marine Corps in the latest edition of Military Review.
China's announcement came as U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach began the first full day of his visit to Taiwan in a low-key way, with no open media events on his agenda.
He is due to meet President Tsai Ing-wen later in the day, and on Saturday will attend a memorial service for late President Lee Teng-hui.
China had threatened to make a "necessary response" to the trip, straining already poor ties between Beijing and both Taipei and Washington. Sino-U.S. relations have plummeted ahead of November's U.S. presidential election.
Chinese fighter jets briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait last month as the U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar was in Taipei, and last week China carried out two days of large-scale drills off Taiwan's southwestern coast.
The United States, like most countries, only has official ties with China, not Taiwan, though is the island's main arms supplier and most important international backer.
This week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had lunch with Taiwan's top envoy in New York. China's U.N. mission said it had lodged "stern representations" over the meeting.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Gerry Doyle)
Senior US diplomat wraps up Taiwan visit as China flexes muscle .
A top US diplomat attended the funeral for former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui Saturday which featured a eulogy by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama before wrapping up a visit overshadowed by Chinese military exercises. Keith Krach, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, was the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 1979 when Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing. The trip, the second high-ranking US visit in as many months, sparked an immediate rebuke from China, which baulks at any recognition of Taiwan and has mounted a decades-long policy of marginalising the democratic island