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.



NATO Chief Says the Alliance Is Adapting Its Nuclear Arsenal to Security Threats

 NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
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NATO Chief Says the Alliance Is Adapting Its Nuclear Arsenal to Security Threats

 NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)

In a rare reference to the Western nuclear arsenal, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday highlighted the alliance's efforts to adapt its capabilities to current security threats, taking note of Russia latest nuclear rhetoric and drills.

Talking to reporters before a two-day NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels that will include a gathering of the alliance's nuclear planning group, he called nuclear weapons NATO's "ultimate security guarantee" and a means to preserve peace.

While it is well known that the US has deployed nuclear bombs to several locations in Europe, NATO rarely talks about these weapons publicly.

Discussing what he called "the ongoing adaptation" of NATO's nuclear arsenal, Stoltenberg said the Netherlands in June declared the first F-35 fighter jets ready to carry nuclear arms and said the US was modernizing its nuclear weapons in Europe.

He described increasing Russian activity around its nuclear capabilities. "What we have seen over the last years and months is a dangerous nuclear rhetoric from the Russian side.... We also see some more exercises, nuclear exercises on the Russian side," he said.

On Tuesday, Russia said its troops had started the second stage of drills to practice the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons alongside Belarusian troops after what Moscow said were threats from Western powers.

Since sending thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said Moscow could use nuclear weapons to defend itself in extreme situations.

Russia accuses the US and its European allies of pushing the world to the brink of nuclear confrontation by giving Ukraine billions of dollars worth of weapons, some of which are being used against Russian territory.

Stoltenberg also referred also to the modernization of China's nuclear weapons, saying Beijing was expected to boost the number of nuclear missiles within a few years and many of them would be able to reach NATO territory.