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China stages combat patrols over Taiwan Strait amid Tsai’s US visit: Report

The illustration shows Chinese and Taiwanese flags.

A number of Chinese aircraft have reportedly conducted combat readiness patrols over the Taiwan Strait in what is seen as a response to Chinese Taipei President Tsai Ing-wen's visit to the United States.

Taiwan's defense ministry said in a statement on Friday that nine Chinese aircraft crossed at points in the north, center and south of the Strait's median line, which used to serve as an unofficial buffer between the two sides.

Taiwan's armed forces responded using its own aircraft and ships to monitor the situation using the principle of "not escalating conflicts or causing disputes," the ministry said.

Accusing China of creating tension in the Taiwan Strait, the self-ruled island's ministry condemned the purported drills as "irrational actions.”

A senior Taiwan official familiar with security planning told Reuters the Chinese aircraft had only "slightly" encroached across the median line, and that no unusual movements by Chinese ships had been spotted.

The Chinese military has not yet commented on or confirmed the reported aerial drills over the Taiwan Strait.

Tsai arrived in the United States on Wednesday, stopping off on her way to Central America. She is expected to meet McCarthy in Los Angeles on her way back to Taipei on April 5, with China on Wednesday threatening unspecified retaliation if that meeting goes ahead.

On her first US stopover since 2019, Tsai claimed at an event held by the Hudson Institute think tank in New York on Thursday that the blame for rising tensions in and around the Taiwan Strait lies with China.

The spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhu Fenglian, on Wednesday slammed Tsai’s stopovers and said no US officials should meet her.

“We firmly oppose this and will take resolute countermeasures,” Zhu said at a news conference in Beijing.

"The US should “refrain from arranging Tsai Ing-wen’s transit visits and even contact with American officials and take concrete actions to fulfill its solemn commitment not to support Taiwan independence."

China staged drills around Taiwan last August following then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei and has continued its military activities near the strategic waterway since though on a reduced scale.

In a meeting ahead of the G20 Summit in Indonesia last November, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart, Joe Biden, that the issue of Chinese Taipei is China’s “first red line” in bilateral relations, warning that Washington must not cross this line.

Stressing that the Taiwan question was the "very core of China's core interests," Xi urged Biden to translate into concrete action Washington’s commitments made to Beijing regarding the self-ruled island.

China has sovereignty over Taiwan. The US does not recognize Taiwan as a country and officially supports the "One China" policy but regularly oversteps its own principles. The island has become China's most sensitive territorial issue and a major bone of contention with Washington.

Washington continues to antagonize Beijing by siding with Taipei's secessionist administration, engaging in frequent military missions around the island, and serving as its largest weapons supplier.

China has repeatedly warned US officials not to meet Tsai, viewing it as support for Taiwan's desire to be seen as a sovereign island.

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