China Flies 103 Military Planes Toward Taiwan 

Soldiers pose for group photos with a Taiwan flag after a preparedness enhancement drill simulating the defense against Beijing's military intrusions, ahead of the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on Jan. 11, 2023. (AP)
Soldiers pose for group photos with a Taiwan flag after a preparedness enhancement drill simulating the defense against Beijing's military intrusions, ahead of the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on Jan. 11, 2023. (AP)
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China Flies 103 Military Planes Toward Taiwan 

Soldiers pose for group photos with a Taiwan flag after a preparedness enhancement drill simulating the defense against Beijing's military intrusions, ahead of the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on Jan. 11, 2023. (AP)
Soldiers pose for group photos with a Taiwan flag after a preparedness enhancement drill simulating the defense against Beijing's military intrusions, ahead of the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on Jan. 11, 2023. (AP)

China’s military sent 103 warplanes toward Taiwan in a 24-hour period in what the island’s defense ministry called a recent new high.

The planes were detected between 6 a.m. on Sunday and 6 a.m. on Monday, the ministry said. As is customary, they turned back before reaching Taiwan. Chinese warplanes fly toward the self-governing island on a near-daily basis but typically in smaller numbers. The Taiwan ministry didn't explain what time period it meant by a “recent” high.

China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, has conducted increasingly large military drills in the air and waters around Taiwan as tensions have grown between the two and with the United States. The US is Taiwan’s main supplier of arms and opposes any attempt to change Taiwan’s status by force.

The Chinese government would prefer that Taiwan come under its control voluntarily and last week unveiled a plan for an integrated development demonstration zone in Fujian province, trying to entice Taiwanese even as it threatens the island militarily in what experts say is China’s long-running carrot and stick approach.

The recent actions may be an attempt to sway Taiwan’s presidential election in January. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which leans toward formal independence for the island, is anathema to the Chinese leadership. China favors opposition candidates who advocate working with the mainland.

The presidential candidates had no comment Monday on the latest Chinese military activity.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that 40 of the planes crossed the symbolic halfway point between mainland China and the island. They included more than 30 fighter jets as well as midair refueling tanker planes. Taiwan also reported nine Chinese naval vessels in area waters in the previous 24 hours.

The ministry called the Chinese military action “harassment” that it warned could escalate in the current tense atmosphere. “We urge the Beijing authorities to bear responsibility and immediately stop such kind of destructive military activities,” it said in a statement.

China last week sent a flotilla of ships including the aircraft carrier Shandong into waters near Taiwan. The drills came shortly after the US and Canada sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait, the waters that separate the island from the mainland.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 when the communists took control of China during a civil war. The losing Nationalists fled to Taiwan and set up their own government on the island.

Only a few foreign nations give the self-governing island official diplomatic recognition. The US among others has formal ties with China while maintaining a representative office in Taiwan.



Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Joe Biden holed up at his beach house Thursday, battling both a bout of COVID and calls by senior allies for him to abandon his 2024 reelection bid.

While rival Donald Trump prepared for his star turn at the Republican National Convention, the 81-year-old US president found himself in both personal and political isolation.

The top Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both reportedly met with Biden in recent days to warn that his candidacy threatens his party's prospects in November's election.

Influential former House speaker Nancy Pelosi added to his woes by privately telling Biden he cannot win and could harm Democrats' chances of recapturing the lower chamber, CNN reported.

Several party figures were meanwhile quoted anonymously by the Axios news outlet as saying that they believed the pressure would persuade Biden to drop out as soon as this weekend.

Biden has insisted he is not backing down, adamant that he is the candidate who beat Trump before and will do it again this year. Pressed about reports that Biden might be softening to the idea of leaving the race, his deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Thursday: “He is not wavering on anything.”

"He's staying in the race," Fulks told a press conference on the sidelines of the Republican convention in Milwaukee.

"Our campaign is not working through any scenarios where President Biden is not the top of the ticket -- he is and will be the Democratic nominee."

California Senator Alex Padilla said Biden was "not skipping a beat."

"I know having spoken to him personally he's committed to the campaign," he added.

Using mountains of data showing Biden’s standing could wipe out the ranks of Democrats in Congress, frank conversations in public and private, and now, the president’s own time off the campaign trail after testing positive for COVID-19, many Democrats see an opportunity to encourage a reassessment.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he was "doing well."

His COVID diagnosis however came at the worst possible time for his campaign, forcing him to cut short a trip to Las Vegas and isolate at his holiday home in Rehoboth, Delaware.

The split-screen with Trump could not have been more stark, with Trump set to formally accept the Republican nomination in Milwaukee.

US networks showed images of frail looking Biden gingerly descending the steps of Air Force One in Delaware, in a week when Trump is lauded by supporters each night at a packed party convention.

Former president Trump, who at 78 is just three years younger than Biden, is riding a wave of support from his party after surviving an assassination attempt on Saturday that left him with a bandaged ear.

The United States could now be approaching the climax of an extraordinary three weeks in politics, which started when Biden gave a disastrous performance during a televised debate with Trump.

Biden blamed jet lag and a cold, but the fact that America's commander-in-chief has now fallen ill for a second time just as fears grow about his fitness for the job has merely intensified the panic in Democratic ranks.