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China displays military might with 38 aircraft and 6 naval vessels in close proximity to Taiwan.

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Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that the Chinese military conducted a major airshow of 38 fighter jets and other combat aircraft near Taiwan.

The high-profile display marked the largest air deployment observed since China’s intense military maneuvers in early April, as it simulated an operation intended to surround the island nation.

Warships have also been seen in the area as part of China’s long-running campaign of intimidation against Taiwan.

Later on Friday, China’s People’s Liberation Army protested the flight of a US Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine patrol aircraft across the Taiwan Strait, separating mainland China from the self-governing island democracy claimed by Beijing.

Describing Thursday’s flight as a provocation that the United States had “openly exaggerated,” the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said it scrambled fighter jets to monitor the plane’s overflight.

Such actions “fully prove that the United States is destabilizing peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and creating security risks,” the statement said. “The theater forces maintain a high level of alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability.”

The US Seventh Fleet said Thursday’s flight took place in accordance with international law and “demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows, including within the Taiwan Strait,” the statement read.

Despite its lack of formal diplomatic relations, the United States remains Taiwan’s closest military and political ally. US law requires Washington to treat all threats to the island as a “grave concern”.

However, it remains a mystery whether US forces will be sent to help defend the island.

Beijing has threatened to bring Taiwan under its control, by force if necessary. Moreover, China’s staunch nationalist leader Xi Jinping has sworn not to give up “an inch” of territory claimed by his country. This pledge applies to Taiwan, the disputed border with India, and the South China Sea, which is claimed almost entirely by China.

In addition to the latest flights of Chinese warplanes, the island’s defense ministry said, Chinese navy ships were spotted in the area from 6 a.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday.

The ministry said 19 planes flew across the median line in the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from the mainland. It added that it included five SU-30s, two J-16 fighter jets and one drone: a large, long-carrying TB-001 Scorpion capable of carrying various bombs and missiles that flew over the island in a relatively rare move, according to A graph from the Department of Defense.

It was not clear what, if any, prompted such a large-scale Chinese move, but China’s efforts to train for a possible attack, wear down the island’s military and influence Taiwan’s politics, became increasingly ambitious.

US military officials said recently that they are increasingly concerned that China’s massive buildup of military capabilities is making the possibility of conflict more likely.

China conducted exercises simulating an island lockdown after the sensitive April 5 meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

China opposes any exchanges at the official level between Taiwan and other governments.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party taking control of the mainland. The island has never been part of the People’s Republic of China, but Beijing says it should unite with the mainland by force if necessary.

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