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Taiwan says Chinese warplanes joined aircraft carrier in Pacific drills

TAIPEI – Taiwan said 35 Chinese warplanes were detected around the island on Wednesday, with some then flying to join China’s Shandong aircraft carrier for naval drills in the Western Pacific.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with it, by force if necessary. The island has complained in recent years of stepped-up Chinese military activities near the island as Beijing seeks to assert its sovereignty claims.

Taiwan on Monday detected China’s Shandong carrier – one of two in Beijing’s fleet – around 60 nautical miles south-east of the island as it sailed into the Western Pacific.

Chinese aircraft, including fighters and drones, were then tracked around the island from Wednesday morning, Taipei’s Defence Ministry said.

Some fighters “passed through the Bashi Channel to the Western Pacific to conduct joint sea and air training with the Shandong aircraft carrier”, the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry on Wednesday released an undated photo showing the Shandong being monitored by a Taiwanese Keelung-class warship.

“The armed forces have monitored the situation and tasked air patrol aircraft, navy vessels and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities,” it said.

Beijing has yet to comment on the drills.

But China’s Eastern Theatre Command – which organises drills around Taiwan – said on Wednesday that an “aviation unit” had carried out training recently, with a range of “thousands of kilometres”. It did not mention the island. 

On Saturday, China said its troops were “on constant high alert” after two ships belonging to the United States and Canada sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

The US Navy said the ships were the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson and the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Ottawa, and that the transit “demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The US and its Western allies have increased “freedom of navigation” crossings of the Taiwan Strait and the disputed South China Sea to reinforce that both are international waterways, angering Beijing.

In April, Beijing conducted military exercises to simulate the encirclement of the island after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. AFP

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