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Taiwan air force stages drill amid tensions with China

F-16V fighter jets perform an elephant walk during an annual New Year's drill in Chiayi, Chinese Taipei, on January 5, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Taiwan's air force has conducted a drill simulating a war situation to show the self-ruled island's combat readiness amid heightened tensions with Beijing.

The exercises were carried out at a base in the southern city of Chiayi on Wednesday, where Taiwanese jets took off into the sky as part of a three-day drill to show off the self-governed island's military prowess ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of this month.

Flight crews rushed to ready aircraft as an alarm sounded before takeoff at the base, home to US-made F-16 fighter jets, which frequently scrambles jets to intercept Chinese planes.

Major Yen Hsiang-sheng told reporters that with the very high frequency of Chinese planes entering Taipei's self-designated air defense identification zone (ADIZ), "pilots from our wing are very experienced and have dealt with almost all types of their aircraft."

The latest development comes as tensions among Chinese Taipei, China, and the United States have been at their highest in decades.

China has been flying fighter jets close to Chinese Taipei while the US has reportedly had troops deployed in the territory for the past year for alleged training purposes.

China flew 150 planes over Taipei's self-designated air defense identification zone in the first five days of October. Taipei's defense ministry described the show of force as an "incursion."

Last month, President Joe Biden said the US would come to Taipei's aid if it were to come under attack from China, claiming it had a commitment to defend the self-ruled island. China blasted the statement, accusing Washington of meddling in Chinese internal affairs.

China has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, and under the "One China" policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in defiance of Beijing.

The United States, which backs Taipei's secessionist president, also continues to sell weapons to the island in violation of its own stated policy.

China has in the past said its military exercises near Chinese Taipei are a "solemn warning" to secessionist factions in the self-ruled island and their foreign backers, particularly the United States.

Beijing has also warned Taipei against making moves toward independence, saying it will take "drastic measures" if the self-governed island crosses red lines.

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