Taiwan president visits air defence battery as China tensions rise

FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the media in Taipei, Taiwan, August 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited an air defence missile base on Friday, where she urged the troops to be steadfast in their defence of the island’s sovereignty and democracy as tensions with China continue to rise.

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own, says that Chinese forces carried out two-days of large-scale air and naval exercises off Taiwan’s southwest and in its air defence identification zone, denouncing it as provocation.

China has stepped up its military activity around Taiwan this year.

Tsai, who was re-elected by a landslide in January promising to stand up to China, observed exercises and chatted to soldiers thanking them for their hard work, in video footage provided by the government.

“At the moment the Chinese Communist’s aircraft harassing of Taiwan and military exercises have been quite frequent,” Tsai said. “I believe that everyone is clear about this situation in performing their mission, and know they have a huge responsibility.”

Taiwan’s skies and people are safe because of their hard work, she added.

“I want to encourage everyone by saying ‘don’t give an inch of the nation’s sovereignty, and hold fast to democracy and freedom’. This is our conviction and resolve to protect our home and defend our country. Please all take this to heart.”

China has not yet responded to Taiwan’s complaints about the recent drills, which happened between mainland Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the northern part of the South China Sea.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill