© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A pilot prepares to take off in an F-CK-1 Ching-kuo IDF at an Air Force base in Tainan
By Ben Blanchard TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force fought for a second day in a row on Saturday after a dozen Chinese fighter jets and bombers conducted drills near Taiwan-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea. said the Defense Ministry in Taipei. Beijing, which claims Taiwan as Chinese territory, has repeatedly conducted air missions in the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in recent months, mainly near the Pratas Islands. After nine Chinese air force planes flew near the Pratas Islands on Friday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it tracked 11 planes on Saturday: eight fighter jets, two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers and one anti-submarine plane. , also near the islands. He said Chinese naval forces were also involved, but did not elaborate. The Taiwanese air force warned the Chinese plane to leave and deployed missile systems to monitor the activity, the ministry said. China has not commented on the past two days of activities. He previously said that such maneuvers were a response to “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan’s main international sponsor 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, Taiwan defends them only slightly and some security experts consider them vulnerable to Chinese attack due to their distance, more than 400 km (250 miles), from mainland Taiwan. Chinese jets fly into the southwest corner of Taiwan’s air defense zone almost daily, although the last large-scale activity was on January 24 when 12 Chinese fighters participated. Taiwan on Friday unveiled a shakeup of senior security officials, including the appointment of a new US-trained defense minister, to help push forward military modernization and intelligence efforts in the face of what it sees as a growing Chinese threat.