China shows off military might in warning to Taiwan ahead of anti-invasion drill

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China sent dozens of warplanes, including fighter jets and bombers, toward Taiwan marking a forceful display days before the democracy plans to hold military exercises aimed at defending itself against a possible invasion.

Taiwan is due to hold its annual Han Kuang exercise next week, during which its military will hold combat readiness drills for preventing an invasion.

It will also conduct the annual Wan’an exercises aimed at preparing civilians for natural disasters and practising evacuations in case of an air raid.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army sent 37 aircraft and seven navy vessels around Taiwan between 6 am Friday and 6 am Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.

Among them were J-10 and J-16 fighters and H-6 bombers, and 22 of the detected warplanes crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait — an unofficial boundary that had been considered a buffer between the island and mainland — or entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone near its southern part, the statement said.

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The warning display came less than a week after China deployed a record-breaking number of warships around the island of Taiwan to once again show off its military prowess.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 following a civil war that ended with the ruling Communist Party in control of the mainland.

The island has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, but Beijing says it must unite with the mainland.

In recent years, China has shown displeasure at political activities in Taiwan by stepping up the number of military planes sent toward the island.

China held huge military drills in response to former United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.

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It fired missiles over the island in a significant escalation that disrupted trade lanes in the Taiwan Strait and forced aeroplanes to reroute flights.

In April, the PLA also held large-scale combat readiness drills in the air and sea around the island in response to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen meeting with current U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Hours after China’s planes broke into Taiwanese airspace, Japan said they would provide Taipei with support to fend off Beijing in the event of an invasion.

Tokyo has so far maintained a policy of diplomatic ambiguity and refused to state outright whether it would intervene directly to help, but Defense Minister Toshiro Inc said the ongoing war in Ukraine had been a wake-up call to many international players.

Ino said: “If people all over the world have the will to support Taiwan, similar to the way they supported Ukraine when we witnessed Russia’s aggression, then, yes, it would be very possible that we will provide some kind of support to Taiwan.”

He clarified that Japan has yet to decide the type of support it would offer to Taiwan, stating the government would need to first secure the support of the population before intervening.

Ino added: “I am not sure at this juncture whether it is going to be defence equipment support or whether it is going to be logistics support.

“We consider it a threat that China is increasing its military budget and it is sharply increasing its assertiveness in the maritime zones. So far, we haven’t seen this level of threat before.”

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