Taiwan is fighting the Air Force again after Chinese exercises in the South China Sea

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A pilot prepares for an F-CK-1 Ching-kuo IDF to take off from an air force base in Tainan

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force fought for a second straight day on Saturday after a dozen Chinese fighter jets and bombers conducted exercises near the Taiwan-controlled islands in the controversial South China Sea, the Taipei Defense Ministry said.

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as Chinese territory, has repeatedly conducted aerial missions over the past few months in the southwest corner of Taiwan’s air defense zone, mostly near the Pratas Islands.

After nine Chinese air force planes flew near the Pratas Islands on Friday, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry announced it tracked 11 planes on Saturday – eight fighter jets, two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, and one anti-submarine aircraft, also in near the islands.

It was said that Chinese naval forces were also involved, but did not provide details.

Taiwan’s Air Force warned Chinese planes not to leave and deployed missile systems to monitor activity, the ministry said.

China has not commented on the last two days of activity. Previously, it was said that such maneuvers were a reaction to “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan’s main international financier and arms supplier, and to safeguard Chinese sovereignty.

The Pratas Islands are located in the upper part of the South China Sea and are also claimed by China.

Located roughly between southern Taiwan and Hong Kong, they are only lightly defended by Taiwan and viewed by some security experts as vulnerable to Chinese attacks because they are more than 400 km from mainland Taiwan.

Chinese planes fly almost daily in the southwest corner of Taiwan’s air defense zone, although the last such major activity occurred on January 24th when 12 Chinese fighters were involved.

Taiwan on Friday revealed a senior security officer reshuffle, including the appointment of a new US-trained defense minister to aid military modernization and intelligence efforts in the face of the growing Chinese threat.

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