Taiwan's air force scrambles to see off Chinese aircraft as Xi meets top brass

TAIPEI (REUTERS) – Taiwan’s air force scrambled again on Sunday (Nov 28) to warn away 27 Chinese aircraft that entered its air defence identification zone (Adiz), Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said, as tension across the Taiwan Strait went up another notch and as the Chinese President met his top generals.

The Chinese mission included 18 fighters jets plus five nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, as well as, unusually, a Y-20 aerial refuelling aircraft, the Taiwan ministry said.

The bombers and six of the fighters flew to the south of Taiwan into the Bashi Channel, which separates the island from the Philippines, then out into the Pacific before heading back to China, according to a map the ministry provided.

Those aircraft were accompanied by the refuelling aircraft, suggesting China refuelled the shorter-range fighters in-flight, a skill that the country’s air force is still working to hone to enable it to project power farther from China’s shores.

Taiwan sent combat aircraft to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them, the ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from China, which has in the past said such moves were drills aimed at protecting the country’s sovereignty. China views Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary.

Chinese state media reported that President Xi Jinping had held a three-day meeting that ended on Sunday (Nov 28) with the country’s top officers to discuss how to further strengthen the armed forces through talent cultivation.

While the read-out of his remarks made no direct mention of Taiwan, Mr Xi did stress the need to modernise the military in order to be able to win wars.

“It is necessary to make great efforts to strengthen scientific and technological literacy and improve the actual ability to win modern wars,” the official Xinhua news agency cited Mr Xi as saying.

“It is necessary to strengthen practical experience and encourage and guide officers and soldiers to experience the wind and rain, see the world, strengthen their muscles and bones, and develop their talents in fiery military practice.”

Taiwan has complained for a year or more of repeated missions by China’s air force near the island, often in the south-western part of its air defence zone, close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands. Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “grey zone” warfare, designed to both wear out its forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test its responses.

Over a four-day period beginning on Oct 1, when China marked its national day, Taiwan said nearly 150 Chinese military aircraft entered its Adiz, not territorial airspace but a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.

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