Taiwan’s military scrambled planes to warn off Chinese warplanes flying southwest of the island on Friday morning amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the Defense Ministry. The ministry said in a statement that an unspecified number of China’s H-6 bombers, J-11 fighters and KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft were taking part in a long-distance training mission. They subsequently entered the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines en route to the western Pacific before circling back and returning to base, it said. In response to the incident, the air force scrambled a number of fighters, the statement said, assuring the public that the latest instance was closely monitored by the military. In recent weeks China has intensified criticism of President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration, claiming that Taiwan is utilizing the pandemic to push for its formal independence. China’s rising military capabilities, and its need to project an image of strength amid the domestic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, have led Beijing to ramp up provocative military measures, said John Dotson, editor of the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief.
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