China Sends Warplanes Near Taiwan After U.S. Lawmakers Visit
(Bloomberg) -- China sent the biggest sortie of warplanes toward Taiwan in more than seven weeks after a U.S. lawmaker defied a Chinese demand that she abandon a trip to the island.
Twenty-seven Chinese aircraft, including eight J-16 fighter jets, entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone Sunday, according to a statement from the Ministry of National Defense in Taipei.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu wrote in a post on the ministry’s Twitter account that the “coercive action is obviously meant to bring #Taiwan to its knees & keep us away from democratic partners.”
“But make no mistake: We’ll never bow to #CCP pressure. Never, never, never!” said Wu, who is among three leading Taiwanese figures sanctioned by Beijing for what it says are separatist activities.
A Y-20 aerial refueling tanker was sighted for the first time in a sortie by China, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported, citing the Defense Ministry. The plane, which flew its maiden flight in 2019, can carry about 60 tons of fuel.
The deployment of warplanes was the largest since Oct. 4, when People’s Liberation Army aircraft conducted a record 56 flights near Taiwan just after China marked the 72nd anniversary of the People’s Republic.
The latest flights come after a group of U.S. lawmakers including Elissa Slotkin visited Taiwan as part of a trip that included stops in Japan and South Korea. Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, said she had received “a blunt message” from the Chinese Embassy urging her to cancel her trip.
When a separate group of U.S. legislators arrived in Taiwan on an American military plane earlier in November, China’s military said it conducted joint operations in the Taiwan Strait in response to “the erroneous words and deeds of relevant countries on the Taiwan question.”
Lithuania is expected to open a representative office in Taiwan early next year, President Tsai Ing-wen said during a briefing Monday with lawmakers from three Baltic nations. China earlier downgraded ties with Lithuania because it let Taipei set up a set up a representative office under the name of Taiwan.
Lithuanian lawmaker Matas Maldeikis said at the same briefing as Tsai that “preserving freedom and the rules-based international order is of vital interest for both Taiwan and Lithuania.” “We are here to express our solidarity with you,” he said.
The legislators from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are scheduled to attend parliamentary forum on Thursday and Friday.
Their visit was criticized by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, who said at a regular press briefing that Beijing opposes official interactions with Taiwan by nations that have diplomatic ties with his country.
“We urge relevant parties to act prudently and stop sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces,” he said.
China has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which asserts the island is a de facto sovereign nation awaiting wider international recognition and not part of Chinese territory, as Beijing claims.
Still, the Taiwan government has avoided a formal declaration of independence that could trigger a war.
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