Taiwan says it will fight to the end if attacked as China sends more jets

Fighter jets’ latest incursion into island’s air defence zone is further show of force from Beijing

China has sent more fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone in an increased show of force, as Taiwan’s foreign minister vowed the island would fight to the end if China attacks.

Taipei’s defence ministry said it scrambled aircraft to broadcast warning messages to the latest incursion, which included 12 Chinese fighters.

China’s use of such drills has risen to record levels over the past year as a way to pile pressure on self-ruled Taiwan, which it regards as its own territory. Beijing has vowed to one day seize the island, by force if necessary.

The latest incursion came as Taiwan mourned its worst train crash in decades, which killed 50 people and prompted a rare message of condolence from the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

The Taiwanese foreign minister, Joseph Wu, accused Beijing on Wednesday of sending “very mixed signals” by offering sympathy for the train crash while buzzing the island with its fighters. “I would say that the policy is self-defeating,” Wu said.

“It’s not going to meet the purpose of the Chinese government whether they want to win hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people or they are going to intimidate the Taiwanese people.”

He added: “We are willing to defend ourselves without any questions and we will fight the war if we need to fight the war. And if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day we will defend ourselves to the very last day.”

China’s sabre-rattling has increased dramatically since the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, won election in 2016, as she rejects the idea that the island is part of “one China”.

Last year, Chinese jets made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ). Some analysts and US military officials have warned tensions are at their highest since the mid-1990s.

Wu said there was little sign China was willing to dial down its incursions since the US president, Joe Biden, took office. “If you count the number of the Chinese aircraft coming into our ADIZ for this year, it’s already a significant increase from the same period last year,” he said.

China has long used military and civilian vessels to encroach on the territories of its neighbours, known as “grey zone” tactics. The Philippines has been rattled in recent weeks by the sudden appearance of more than 200 Chinese vessels off a disputed reef.

“The like-minded countries in this part of the world need to be aware of the expansionism of the Chinese government,” Wu said.

Staff and agencies in Taipei

The GuardianTramp

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