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Chinese warplanes, warships spotted near Taiwan ahead of crucial presidential election

Chinese warplanes and warships traveled near Taiwan on Saturday, including aircraft crossing the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait, its officials said.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said Saturday afternoon it had detected J-10, J-11 and J-16 fighters as well as early warning aircraft operating in the airspace to the north, middle and southwest of the island.

The ministry said 10 aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait median line or areas nearby and that the aircraft were working with Chinese warships to carry out “joint combat readiness patrols.”

The continued Chinese military activities come as Taiwan prepares for its presidential and parliamentary elections on Jan. 13, in which Chinese relations are a major point of contention between the leading candidates.

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Taiwanese forces were sent to monitor the activity, the ministry said.

The Taiwan Strait median line had previously been an unofficial barrier between Taiwan and mainland China, but now Chinese aircraft fly over it regularly.

China has not addressed its recent military activities near Taiwan, but it previously said they were intended to prevent “collusion” between Taiwan separatists and the U.S. and protect China’s territorial integrity.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and the U.S. formally recognizes Taiwan as belonging to China. 

Taiwan, which has its own government, is holding crucial elections next month that could ultimately determine its relationship with mainland China.

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According to opinion polls, the current frontrunner to become Taiwan’s next president is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s nominee, Lai Ching-te. 

Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, traditionally supports close ties with China and has vowed to reopen talks with China if it wins the election. But the Kuomintang also says Taiwan’s people will decide their future. 

For four years, Taiwan has criticized China for its regular military patrols and drills near the island. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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