TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China is continuously bolstering its military bases along the coastline facing Taiwan, the self-ruled island’s Defense Ministry said in a report Tuesday, as Beijing steps up military activities around the territory it claims as its own.
Taiwan said it will continue to monitor the Chinese activities around the island and bolster its defenses in response. Earlier on Tuesday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had spotted 22 Chinese warplanes and 20 warships near the island over the previous 24 hours — part of military harassment by Beijing, which hasn’t ruled out force to reunite the island with the mainland.
“This year, the Chinese Communist Party has aggressively expanded its armaments and continued to build various types of fighter jets and drones,” Maj. Gen. Huang Wen-Chi, the assistant deputy chief with the General Staff for Intelligence of Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, said during a news conference releasing the biennial report.
“The information we have received is that all important military bases along the coast … are being continuously updated,” he added.
Huang pointed to three military airfields in China’s southeastern Fujian province – Longtian, Huian and Zhangzhou – that have recently been expanded. The closest one to Taiwan, Longtian, is only 217 kilometers (135 miles) from the capital, Taipei.
Over the past year, Beijing has stepped up military activities around Taiwan, including by sending warships and warplanes on a near-daily basis.
The latest dispatch of Chinese warplanes and warships came after the United States and Canada sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait in a challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims.
On Monday, China sailed its own naval formation led by the aircraft carrier Shandong about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Taiwan. The vessel was expected to conduct drills simulating aircraft, submarine, warship and land attacks, according to Chinese state media.
This was the second time China has deployed the Shandong to the western Pacific, according to state media. The carrier, commissioned in 2019, participated in drills around Taiwan in April, shortly after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. Beijing sees all exchanges between Taiwanese and foreign officials as challenges to its claims over the island.
Thirteen of the Chinese military aircraft reported on Tuesday had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial demarcation zone between China and Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
“The period from July to September this year was the peak period for the Chinese Communist Party’s exercises,” Huang said, noting an increase in China’s naval activities in the waters surrounding the Taiwan Strait and a large number of warships operating in the South China and East China seas.
Associated Press video journalist Johnson Lai contributed to this report.