‘Don’t play with fire’: China tells US after 25 China jets enter Taiwan air zone
TAIPEI, Apr 13: China on Tuesday warned the US "not to play with fire" on the issue of Taiwan just days after Washington issued new guidelines that will continue to enable US officials to freely meet Taiwanese counterparts, angering Beijing.
The warning from China came on a day when self-ruled Taiwan, viewed by China as a renegade region, said a record number of fighter jets from the mainland flew into its air defence zone on Monday.
The Taiwanese defence ministry was quoted as saying that at least 25 Chinese military aircraft including nuclear-capable bombers flew inside its air defence identification zone (ADIZ). The island's defence ministry said it scrambled its own jets to warn and monitor the mainland aircraft.
China considers Taiwan as a "core" territorial issue and has been aggressively using the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to show off military strength around the island of about 23 million people.
Beijing has over the years warned countries including India against establishing official ties with Taipei - and instead support the "one China policy" - and has never ruled out reuniting Taiwan using military power. China, Zhao said, urges the US "not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue, immediately stop any form of US-Taiwan official contacts, cautiously and appropriately handle the matter, and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces so as not to subversively influence and damage Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait".
China's latest warning comes after US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington is concerned by Beijing's "increasingly aggressive actions" directed at Taiwan and remains committed to ensuring peace and stability in the western Pacific region.
The latest Chinese mission involved 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighters, as well as four H-6K bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, two anti-submarine aircraft and an early warning aircraft, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said.
It was the largest daily incursion since the ministry began regularly reporting Chinese Air Force activities in Taiwan's ADIZ last year.
The ministry added that combat aircraft were dispatched to intercept and warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were also deployed to monitor them.
The Chinese aircraft all flew in an area close to the Pratas Islands, according to a map the ministry provided.
China has in the past described such missions as being to protect the country's sovereignty and deal with "collusion" between Taipei and Washington.
The United States, which like most countries has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, has watched with alarm the stepped up tensions with Beijing.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the United States is concerned about China's aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a "serious mistake" for anyone to try to change the status quo in the Western Pacific by force.
China describes Taiwan as its most sensitive territorial issue and a red line the United States should not cross. It has never renounced the possible use of force to ensure eventual unification. -REUTERS