Taiwan says Chinese aircraft conduct more drills near island

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Chinese military aircraft conducted a third day of training near Taiwan on Monday after doing close flybys of the island over the weekend, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said.

Two Chinese military transport aircraft flew through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, then took different courses before returning to base, the ministry said.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. It is also worried about Taiwan, which it claims as its own, but which is run by a government China fears is intent on independence.

Taiwan’s military closely monitored the Chinese aircraft and the situation was under control, the ministry said.

“Our military has monitored the movements of the Chinese aircraft from the beginning to the end and were prepared for any contingency based on our rules of engagement,” it said in a statement.

After the two aircraft flew through the Bashi Channel, one took a northeasterly direction and passed over waters near Japan’s Miyako island to Taiwan’s north before returning to its base, the ministry said.

The other flew in a southeasterly direction before it too returned to base the way it had come.

China’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the past three days of drills.

China conducted air exercises near Taiwan over the weekend, the latest in a series of such exercises near Taiwan and Japan in the past several weeks.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan to be a renegade province, and has never ruled out the option to regain control of the island by force if necessary.

Reporting by Faith Hung and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel