Taiwanese officials say 17 Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait Wednesday as tensions over the disputed Island continue to flare.
“In the face of military intimidation created by China, Taiwan will not be afraid nor back down, and will more firmly defend its sovereignty, national security, and free and democratic way of life,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday, according to Reuters.
The statement comes as China has continued military drills in the area in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, with Chinese state media claiming that the military will continue to conduct “regular” drills that cross the Strait median line.
The median line in the Taiwan Strait has for decades been understood by both sides as a boundary military that forces do not cross for fear of escalation that could lead to war. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry claims its existence is a “fact,” though it has never been legally recognized.
But Chinese state media called the line “imaginary” Sunday, claiming it was an invention of the U.S. that allowed for its forces to operate in the East Asia region.
The Chinese drills have gotten the attention of the White House, with President Biden saying he was “concerned” about the drills but downplaying fears of an invasion.
“I’m concerned they are moving as much as they are,” the president told reporters Wednesday. “But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later called the drills “provocative,” warning that they risk escalating tensions.
“We’ve been condemning them since they started escalating,” Jean-Pierre said. “They are provocative, irresponsible and raise the risk of miscalculation. And that’s what he – the president – was referring to.”
China, which has long claimed Taiwan as its rightful territory, has expressed outrage over Pelosi’s trip to the independent island last week and has vowed a show of force in response.
“The current tense situation in the Taiwan Strait is entirely provoked and created by the U.S. side on its own initiative, and the U.S. side must bear full responsibility and serious consequences for this,” Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Wednesday.