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Taiwan defies 'big bully' China after latest air incursion

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Taiwan defies 'big bully' China after latest air incursion
Taiwan said Wednesday that it will stand up to "big bully" China one day after Beijing sent 29 aircraft through Taipei's air identification zone. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA-EFE

June 22 (UPI) -- Taiwan said Wednesday it would not give in to "big bully" China and warned against its growing military threat one day after Beijing's latest incursion of warplanes into the self-governing island's air defense identification zone.

"The latest large-scale exercise by the [People's Liberation Army] shows authoritarian China's military threat is more serious than ever," Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted. "But there's no way Taiwan will cave in and surrender its sovereignty and democracy to the big bully. Not a chance!"

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Taipei said that 29 Chinese aircraft entered the island's air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas island on Tuesday. The sortie, which was Beijing's third-largest of the year, included 17 fighter jets and six H-6 bomber as well as electronic warfare, antisubmarine and early-warning aircraft, the defense ministry reported.

The mission came just weeks after China sent 30 planes near the island on May 30 during a visit by U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth. In January, Beijing flew 39 aircraft through Taiwan's ADIZ one day after the U.S. Navy and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force concluded a multi-day joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.

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Taipei responded on Tuesday by scrambling fighter jets to warn away the Chinese planes in a routine that has become commonplace as Beijing ramps up its military pressure against the island that it considers a breakaway province.

Taiwan's military calls China's provocations "gray zone" warfare meant to strain the self-governing island's defense capabilities and wear down its morale.

The island has seen three military jet crashes this year, two of them fatal, amid concerns that the frequency of responding to Chinese incursions is stretching Taiwan's air force thin.

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Beijing has vowed to take the democratic island of 23 million by force if necessary, and has recently begun amplifying its claim of sovereignty over the Taiwan Strait, the110-mile-wide body of water that separates Taiwan and China.

Taipei rejected the claim as a "fallacy" last week. The U.S. Navy regularly sails warships through the busy sea lane on freedom of navigation operations in what it considers international waters.

At a defense forum in Singapore this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed concerns about the Chinese military's "unsafe, aggressive, unprofessional behavior" toward Taiwan and suggested that Beijing "may be attempting to change the status quo through its operational behavior."

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China, meanwhile, launched its third and most advanced aircraft carrier on Friday in a step aimed at helping Beijing project greater military power around the region.

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