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Taiwan to discuss new funding with US as Chinese warplanes get close to island

Published 04/20/2024, 08:11 PM
Updated 04/21/2024, 04:05 AM
© Reuters. A demonstrator holds flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during an stop-over after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame, California, U.S., January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan's military said on Sunday it will discuss with the United States how to use funding for Taipei included in a $95 billion legislative package mostly providing assistance to Ukraine and Israel, as Chinese warplanes again got close to the island.

The United States is Taiwan's most important international supporter and arms supplier despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Democratically governed Taiwan has faced increased military pressure from China, which views the island as its own territory. Taiwan's government rejects those claims.

The defence ministry expressed thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the package on Saturday, saying it demonstrated the "rock solid" U.S. support for Taiwan.

The ministry added it "will coordinate the relevant budget uses with the United States through existing exchange mechanisms, and work hard to strengthen combat readiness capabilities to ensure national security and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait".

Taiwan has since 2022 complained of delays in deliveries of U.S. weapons such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as manufacturers focussed on supplying Ukraine to help the country battle invading Russian forces.

Underscoring the pressure Taiwan faces from China, the ministry said on Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours 14 Chinese military aircraft had crossed the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait.

The median line once served as an unofficial border between the two sides over which neither sides' military crossed, but China's air force now regularly sends aircraft over it. China says it does not recognise the line's existence.

Some Chinese aircraft on Saturday got as close as 40 nautical miles (70 km) from the northern and southern parts of Taiwan, according to a map the Taiwanese ministry provided, though that remains outside its contiguous zone, which is 24 nautical miles from Taiwan's coast.

Taiwan's territorial space is defined at 12 nautical miles from its coast. Taiwan has previously reported Chinese military aircraft getting close to but not entering the contiguous zone.

Wang Ting-yu, a senior lawmaker for Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party who sits on parliament's defence and foreign affairs committee, said Taiwan's armed forces were able to respond with its own aircraft and tracking by land-based missile systems.

"But what the Chinese communists did was provocative and very irresponsible behaviour," he said on social media.

On Saturday, Taiwan's defence ministry said China had again carried out "joint combat readiness patrols" with Chinese warships and warplanes around Taiwan.

© Reuters. A demonstrator holds flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during an stop-over after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame, California, U.S., January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

China's defence ministry did not answer calls seeking comment outside of office hours on Sunday.

The island's armed forces are dwarfed by those of China's, especially the navy and air force.

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