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37 Chinese aircraft circled Taiwan on their way to drill

Taiwan’s defence ministry reported that 37 Chinese aircraft were spotted around the self-governing island on 10 July, according to Asian media.

The Chinese planes were heading for exercises with an aircraft carrier in the western Pacific.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and maintains an almost daily presence of fighter jets, drones and warships around the island, which lies 180 kilometres off China’s southern coast.

Around 9:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Taipei reported that “since 5.20 a.m. today, the Ministry of National Defence detected a total of 37 Chinese aircraft” around Taiwan, including fighter jets, bombers, and drones.

Thirty-six aircraft crossed the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait dividing in half the narrow waterway that separates the island from China.

[The aircraft] headed to the Western Pacific via our southern and southeastern airspace to cooperate with the aircraft carrier the Shandong in conducting ‘joint sea and air training.’

Defence Minister Wellington Koo stated that the Shandong “did not pass through the Bashi Channel”, an area off the southern tip of Taiwan where Chinese ships normally transited on their way to the Pacific. Instead, it “went further south through the Balingtang Channel towards the Western Pacific.”

The Chinese flights came a day after Japan’s Joint Staff reported that four PLA navy vessels, including the Shandong, were sailing 520 kilometres southeast of Miyako Island.

On the same day, the Chinese navy’s Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier ‘Shandong’ was observed landing and departing fighter aircraft and helicopters on board.

In May, days after Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te took office, China began military drills around the island as “punishment” for an inaugural speech that Beijing called a “confession of Taiwan independence.”

On Wednesday, Lai met with Raymond Greene, new director of the American Institute in Taiwan. Although the United States, like many other countries, does not officially recognise Taiwan diplomatically, the US is a key partner of Taipei and a major arms supplier, angering Beijing, which has repeatedly called on Washington to stop arming the island.

Greene stated on Wednesday that Washington would continue to “strongly support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.”

We have a long-term and shared interest to maintain the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. This is vital to the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, as well as to global security.

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