Taiwan Scrambles Fighters as Chinese Heavy Bombers Circle the Island

WADI SHADIYAH, JORDAN- MAY 18: A B-52 Stratofortress and F-16 jets arrive to participate in the final counter attack at Jordanian exercises with 18 nations including the U.S. as part of Eager Lion on May 18, 2015 in the southeast desert of Wadi Shadiyah, Jordan. In the final exercise, two …
Jordan Pix/ Getty Images

Taiwan’s air force scrambled several aircraft on Friday to shadow a pair of Chinese H-6 heavy bombers that flew around the island in one of the Chinese military’s increasingly frequent “training missions.”

The South China Morning Post notes that the bomber flight occurred just a few hours after Burkina Faso cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan under pressure from China, the latest successful operation in Beijing’s campaign to isolate the island nation:

In the latest flight by People’s Liberation Army aircraft around Taiwan, two H-6 bombers passed through the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan from the Philippines in the early hours of Friday and then rounded Taiwan via Japan’s Miyako Strait, to Taiwan’s northeast, the island’s defense ministry said.

Taiwanese aircraft accompanied and monitored the mainland’s bombers throughout, the ministry said, describing the PLA aircraft as being on a long-range training mission.

The people of Taiwan should not be alarmed as the air force was well able to monitor the PLA aircraft as they approached and during their missions and could ensure Taiwan’s security, the ministry added.

There was no immediate word from Beijing. It has said these missions, which have become increasingly frequent, are to send a warning to Taiwan not to engage in separatist activity.

The New York Times wrote on Friday that Taiwan was enraged by the Burkina Faso incident and China’s successful bid to block Taiwan from participating in the World Health Organization’s annual assembly in Geneva. A backlash is growing against China’s campaign to “simply erase Taiwan’s international identity”:

“The Chinese government always says it wants to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people, but their military threats against Taiwan and the diplomatic assault against Taiwan are not doing that,” the foreign minister, Joseph Wu, recently told reporters.

“China’s goal regarding Taiwan has never changed,” Lee Teng-hui, who in 1996 became Taiwan’s first democratically elected president, said in a rare interview.

“That goal is to swallow up Taiwan’s sovereignty, exterminate Taiwanese democracy and achieve ultimate unification,” said Mr. Lee. At 96, the former leader is calling for a referendum that could pave a path toward sovereignty by explicitly declaring the island Taiwan, not the Republic of China, as it is formally known.

“When we look at the rest of the world, every other country has the right to enter into diplomatic relations with other countries,” Wu told NPR in an interview on Friday. “They have every right to participate in international activities or international organizations. But Taiwan is in a situation that it is being blocked by China to do all those things.”