Taiwan Appoints New US-Trained Defense Minister As 8 Chinese Fighters Again Breach Airspace

Taiwan Appoints New US-Trained Defense Minister As 8 Chinese Fighters Again Breach Airspace

On Friday at least eight Chinese aircraft breached Taiwan’s southwest air defense zone in the latest among many recent incidents that saw Taiwan’s air force scramble fighter jets in response.

Over the past two months it’s been happening on a daily basis. In this fresh encounter, also as US warships continue patrolling the South China Sea region, Reuters details that “four Chinese J-16s and four JH-7s as well as an electronic warfare aircraft flew near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the top part of the South China Sea.”

Chinese fighters (J-11) file image, via AP

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry indicated it issued radio warnings and activated air defense missile systems to “monitor” the activity.

Also on Friday it was announced that Taiwan is seeking to strengthen its security team by a major reshuffling of senior security officials which is part of broader military modernization efforts. Most notably, Taiwan’s government has appointed a new defense minister.

According to Reuters, he’s a US-trained officer:

National Security Bureau Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng, who graduated from the U.S. Army War College in 1999, would replace Yen De-fa as defence minister, Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang told reporters.

The president expected Chiu to complete the next stage of military reforms, including planning for “asymmetric warfare”, focusing on high-tech, mobile weapons designed to make any Chinese attack as difficult as possible, [Presidential Office spokesman] Chang said.

“The most important task of the National Security Bureau is to understand and have a grasp on China,” a spokesman for President Tsai Ing-wen said further.

General Chiu Kuo-cheng in 2007, Getty Images

The new defense minister will take up his post starting next week at a moment of continued soaring tensions with Beijing.

It was late last month that China’s PLA military issued what is arguably the most direct and bellicose threat in years – or perhaps but a “reminder” of China’s constant stance – telling Taiwan that “independence means war”. During its late January press briefing Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian was asked about the significant uptick in PLA exercises and deployments in regional waters, and he responded by saying that “military activities” in the Taiwan Strait “are necessary actions to address the current security situation”

He then warned in a repeat of past foreign ministry and PLA leadership statements: “Those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war.”

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