Chinese military aircraft on Saturday flew over waterways near Taiwan as part of long-range exercises, Taiwan said, the first such flights since a telephone call between Taiwan’s leader and US President-elect Donald Trump irked China. China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a wayward province. Trump’s call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on December 2 was the first between a US president-elect or president and a Taiwan leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979.
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China lodged a diplomatic protest over the call and blamed Taiwan for what it called a “petty” move. But there was no indication the exercise by its military aircraft on Saturday was a response to the telephone call. The Chinese jets flew north to south and entered the Miyako Strait around Japan’s southern islands as well as the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan, but did not enter Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement.
The drills, lasting for about four hours, involved more than 10 aircraft, including four electronic surveillance planes that flew through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
China, which has in recent years become more assertive in the western Pacific and South China Sea, has carried out similar exercises in the area since September. The Chinese air force has described the exercises as part of regular, annual drills which accord with international law and practice.