Tsai Ing-wen (C) meets with members of the military at Penghu Air Force Base on Magong island.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen praised on Tuesday the “heroic performance” of air force pilots who have been intercepting Chinese jets that have approached the island, as Beijing steps up military pressure on democratic Taiwan.
Tension between China and the island Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory have spiked to their highest in years, with Taiwanese fighters jets scrambling to intercept the Chinese aircraft last week.
Visiting a major air force base on Penghu in the sensitive Taiwan Strait that divides the two sides, Tsai told pilots and engineers she was aware of their “heroic performance” when intercepting and driving away Chinese aircraft.
“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?” she said, using Taiwan’s formal name.
“I’m aware that facing the provocative behaviour of the communist planes that have encircled the island and damaged regional peace in recent days, your duty at the front line of the airspace in Penghu must be even heavier.”
The base, now home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF) which first entered service in 1997, is at the front line of Taiwan’s response to Chinese military intrusions.
Wang Chia-chu, one of the senior officers of the “Heavenly Colt” IDF squadron, told Reuters there is just five minutes’ time to scramble fighters once Chinese aircraft are spotted.
“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 Reuters the Penghu-based IDFs are now scrambling “almost every day” as tension run high.
The air force also put on display its new Wan Chien air-to-ground cruise missiles that entered service in 2018 and can be fired from IDFs at targets about 200 km (125 miles) away, putting Chinese facilities or approaching ships in their sights.
Unusually, Chinese aircraft last week breached the mid line of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial barrier for combat aircraft of both sides, although they have not flown over mainland Taiwan.
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said the line did not exist, provoking condemnation from Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
In Taipei on Tuesday, Wu called the line an important “symbol” for avoiding military clashes, and urged other countries to condemn China.
“We demand the international community strongly condemns China’s words and actions and demand the Chinese government stops everything that it has been doing,” he added.
China has been angered by stepped-up US support for democratic Taiwan, including a visit to Taipei last week by US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach.
Taiwanese fighters have scrambled many times this year to intercept Chinese aircraft.
Ten of the aircraft on Saturday flew across the median line in the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from the mainland, the ministry said. It said they included six Shenyang J-11 and four J-16 aircraft.
In her meeting with Holcomb on Monday, President Tsai Ing-wen directly referenced Beijing's drills and called for like-minded countries to continue supporting Taiwan.
Tsai’s comments follow the conclusion of the twice-a-decade congress of China’s Communist Party at which it upped its long-standing threat to annex the island it considers its own territory by force if necessary.
Nepal's National Earthquake Monitoring & Research Center said the epicenter for both quakes, with initial magnitudes measuring at 5.3 followed by 6.3, was Bajhang district in northwest Nepal, close to the Indian border.
The Authority said via X platform, “In recent hours, attempts to steal people's WhatsApp accounts have drastically increased, whereby fraudsters send messages through WhatsApp from names of people known to the recipient asking him/her to click on a link to join a group
Dubai Customs plays a central role in local, regional, and global endeavors to combat drug trafficking, mitigating its proliferation and addressing transnational crimes that pose substantial threats to both individuals and communities.