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Taiwan scrambles jets after China issues 18-plane show of force during US visit

Taiwan scrambles jets after China issues 18-plane show of force during US visit
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Taiwan scrambled multiple fighter jets on Friday after China sent 18 planes over the Taiwan Strait in a show of force as a U.S. official held meetings in Taiwan.

China flew demonstrations over the strait as U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach held talks with Taiwan’s minister of economic affairs and the vice premier. He also met with business leaders and is set to dine with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, according to The Associated Press.

Krach is the most senior State Department official to visit Taiwan in four decades, according to Reuters. The self-governing island is claimed by China.

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Taiwan’s defense ministry said two bombers and 16 fighter jets from China crossed into Taiwan’s air defense zone, according to the AP. In response, Taiwan scrambled jets and monitored the Chinese planes.

It is at least the second show of force this month targeting those who support Taiwan’s independence, according to the outlet. Taiwan said Chinese warplanes entered its airspace two days last week.  

The Trump administration has moved to strengthen relations with Taiwan, including through arms sales. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited the island in August.

Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said the drills were a “legitimate and necessary action taken in response to the current situation across the Taiwan Straits to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also defended the exercise. 

“Recently, the U.S. and [Taiwan’s ruling] Democratic Progressive Party authorities have stepped up their collusion and frequently stir up troubles,” Ren told reporters on Friday, according to the AP. “Whether it is using Taiwan to contain China or relying on foreign powers to threaten others, it is wishful thinking and is destined to be a dead end.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft had lunch on Wednesday with Taiwan’s top envoy in New York, James K.J. Lee. 

The Chinese military response sends a message to the U.S. amid expanded talks with Taiwan, according to the AP. Tensions between the U.S. and China have spiked in recent months as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE has regularly criticized China over the coronavirus pandemic.