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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen made a visit to a maintenance base to boost engineers confidence amid fly-over’s rattling the country. Beijing believes Taiwan rightfully belongs to China, and has repeatedly threatened to regain control of the island by force. The tensions have forced Taiwan to splash huge amounts on arms deals with the US, and has put the country on high alert.
Ms Tsai made her visit to Gangshan air base in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung to re-encourage Taiwanese engineers amid China’s repeated aerial pressure.
During her visit, she was reportedly left stunned by the cost of a single component for a Taiwanese fighter jet, with one small component costing $13,000 (£9,734).
Ms Tsai later told sailors at the nearby Zuoying naval base she would be the strongest backer of Taiwan’s forces.
She added: “If there was no backup or help from you all, the military’s steadfast combat strength would be greatly reduced.”
Ms Tsai’s statements follow the Chinese sending fighter jets over the Taiwan Strait and the Pratas Islands.
China’s Air Force dwarfs Taiwan, with the island country having to repeatedly scramble jets to intercept Chinese planes.
While China has not yet conducted fly-over’s above mainland Taiwan, the operations have increased financial pressure on the island.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said the “dramatic increase” in threats from China, along with a “middle-aged” fleet of aircraft, has led to a huge increase in maintenance costs.
The defence ministry added in a report last month China’s fly-overs above the strait and islands were intended to reduce Taiwan’s response time, which has put “enormous pressure” on frontline forces.
They added China’s flights to southwest Taiwan are “an attempt to exhaust out air defences”, and warned if they become more frequent, they will “increase our burden of response”.
A Taiwanese-based diplomat also told Reuters China’s strategy was to wage a war of attrition on the island nation with the fly-overs.
They said: “China is trying to wear out Taiwan’s pilots by keeping them constantly on edge.”
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Aerial pressure on Taiwan follows the country buying 66 F-16 jets from the US to counter China in August.
Beijing was enraged by the US and Taiwan sale, and ramped up drills to scare the island into submission.
Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, also told reporters Beijing will do “whatever it takes” to crush Taiwan in a chilling warning.
Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, also rejected the “median line” maritime border between the two countries, and said Taiwan andante US are “sorely mistaken” if they believe China will not strike the island country.
The US has also seen escalating tensions with China over Beijing’s operations in the South China Sea.
Trump administration officials have repeatedly condemned Beijing’s claims of “sovereignty” over the South China Sea.
The US also plans to sell seven major weapons systems to Taiwan in a new project dubbed Fortress Taiwan.
Part of the planned deal between the two countries would see Taiwan receive cruise missiles, drones and sea mines.
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