Taiwan tells China to ‘back off’ as airspace ‘incursions’ rise

Taiwan tells China to ‘back off’ as airspace ‘incursions’ rise

Taiwan on Tuesday demanded that China “back off” and accused it of threatening peace, after recent incursions and a Beijing official openly rejecting a largely respected marine boundary.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu urged Beijing to “return to the civilised international standards” after a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said there was no so-called median line in the Taiwan Strait “as Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory”.

The tension between China and the island Beijing claims as its own is at its highest in years, with Taiwanese fighter jets scrambling to intercept the Chinese aircraft last week.

“The median line has been a symbol of preventing military conflicts and maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait for many years,” Wu told reporters.

“The Chinese foreign ministry’s comment is equivalent of destroying the status quo.”

“I call on the international community to condemn the CCP for its dangerous and provocative words and deeds threatening peace… China must back off,” he added in a social media post.

The latest development comes as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen praised on Tuesday the “heroic performance” of air force pilots who have been intercepting the Chinese jets that have approached the island.

“I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China, how could we let enemies strut around in our own airspace?” Tsai said, using Taiwan’s formal name, as she visited a major military base in Penghu.

‘Almost daily incursions’

The base, now home to F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo – aircraft commonly known as Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF) first entered into service in 1997 – is at the front line of Taiwan’s response to Chinese military intrusions.

On Tuesday, Wang Chia-chu, one of the senior officers of the “Heavenly Colt” IDF squadron, told Reuters once Chinese aircraft were spotted they had just five minutes to scramble their fighters.

“We will defend our airspace in real-time as long as there’s a threat,” Wang said.

Another senior officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the news agency that the IDFs were now scrambling “almost every day” as a result of the rising tension.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory, to be taken by force if necessary, even though the island has been self-ruled for more than 70 years.

Beijing has ratcheted up pressure on the democratic island since the 2016 election of President Tsai who rejects its view that Taiwan is part of “one China”.

Last year, Taiwan accused China of violating a long-held tacit agreement after its fighter jets – for the first time in years – crossed the median line of the waters that separate the two sides.

Washington’s increased outreach to Taiwan under President Donald Trump has become another flashpoint with Beijing, as the US and China clash over a range of trade and security issues, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent months Taiwan has reported a sharp rise in incursions by Chinese warplanes into its air defence identification zone.