Taiwan scrambles jets as China military overshadows USA visit

Students from Hong Kong and Taiwan display placards reading “Bad laws of China’s national security during a protest outside

China on launched "real-combat" drills near the Taiwan Strait as a top United States official visits Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a breakaway region.

The US government is reportedly planning an arms deal worth $7 billion with Taiwan, which is concerned about China's growing military presence in the region.

China's Defense Ministry said on Friday that the People's Liberation Army's eastern theater command was carrying our exercises in the area, but did not provide details about the operation.

"This is a legitimate and necessary action taken in response to the current situation across the Taiwan Straits to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity", said China's Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang.

"Recently the United States and (the Taiwanese ruling party) Democratic Progressive Party authorities have stepped up their collusion, frequently creating disturbances", Ren said.

His greatest act of defiance was becoming Taiwan's first democratically elected president in March 1996, achieved in a landslide following eight months of intimidating war games and missile tests by China in waters around the island.

"In addition to sending Krach to visit the Taiwan on Thursday to attend the memorial service of former Taiwan regional leader Lee Teng-hui, the United States has increased its provocation to try to push back China's bottom line on the "Taiwan question" in recent days", Global Times said.

Attempting to "use Taiwan to control China" or "rely on foreigners to build oneself up" was wishful thinking and destined to fail.

China's U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun told AP on Thursday that the Chinese Embassy in Washington is presenting "our disagreements" about U.S. -Taiwan actions to the Trump administration and "here in NY we are also approaching the U.S. Mission to present our protest".

Meanwhile, China began a military exercise near the Taiwan Strait, to coincide with Krach's visit, the South China Morning Post reported Friday.

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Taiwan's ruling party and its supporters appear to see the USA under Trump and the tensions with Beijing as an opportunity to push for closer ties with Washington and work towards their goal of getting formal global recognition of Taiwan as an independent country, says our correspondent.

Nevertheless, Krach's visit seriously undermines the political foundation of the China-U.S. relations and aggravates tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan has long sought a free trade deal with the United States, but Washington has complained about barriers to access for U.S. pork and beef.

Krach's trip follows a visit in August by U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, the highest-level U.S. Cabinet official to visit since the U.S. switched formal relations from Taiwan to China in 1979.

Hosting a dinner for Krach and his team at her official residence, Tsai thanked him for coming to attend Saturday's memorial service for late President Lee Teng-hui, the father of Taiwan's democracy, the presidential office said in a statement late Friday.

The Taiwanese government has remained fairly quiet on Mr Krach's visit, saying little other than welcoming words and encouragement on fostering a stronger relationship with the US.

Lee, who died in July at the age of 97, was a towering figure in Taiwan's history, helping the once authoritarian island transition to a vibrant democracy and later angering China by pushing for it to be recognised as a sovereign country.

The crack about "harm to public health" was a reference to Taiwan relaxing restrictions on an additive used in some USA pork products.

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of Tsai, who rejects its view that the island is part of "one China".

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