TAIPEI, Sept 12 (Reuters) – China is bolstering its air power along the coast facing Taiwan with a permanent deployment of new fighters and drones at expanded air bases, Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Tuesday in its biennial report.
China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has ramped up its military activities near the island in recent years in response to what Beijing calls “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States and to prevent Taiwan independence.
China staged war games around Taiwan in August of last year and again in April, and its forces operate around the island almost daily.
In its National Defence Report, the ministry said China uses “realistic combat training and exercises to strengthen its preparedness against Taiwan”.
“The Chinese communists have been completing the expansion of airfields along the coastline of its eastern and southern theatre commands, realigning new fighters and drones to be permanently stationed there,” it said.
China’s frequent drills to Taiwan’s north and south and into the Pacific show its efforts to “intimidate” Taiwan from both its east and west, the ministry added.
China’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Taiwan, whose forces are dwarfed by those of China’s, has been pursuing a strategy of asymmetric defence by improving its long-range, precision, unmanned, manoeuvrable and artificial intelligence capabilities.
The ministry said that in the event there were clear signs of a Chinese invasion they could “preemptively strike its mobilising invasion forces” with precision weapons.
The report outlined the “grey zone”, ostensibly non-military methods, China also uses against Taiwan. The ministry said that included weather balloons around the Taiwan Strait that are actually for spying purposes, and civilian aircraft used for surveillance.
China’s sabre-rattling around Taiwan has sparked concern regionally and in Western capitals about a possible conflict.
China’s economic slowdown could increase the risk of Beijing taking military action toward Taiwan, the Republican chair of a U.S. congressional committee on China said on Monday, drawing a contrast with Democratic President Joe Biden, who said it made it less likely.
Asked about Biden’s comments, Huang Wen-chi, assistant deputy chief for Taiwan’s General Staff For Intelligence, said China’s defence spending continued to increase and Taiwan could not let down its guard.
“We so far can’t see any friendliness from the Chinese communist authorities towards us,” he added.
Taiwan’s government says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.