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China's military conducts assault drills in seas near Taiwan

TAIPEI (AP): Chinese fighter jets, anti-submarine aircraft and combat ships conducted assault drills near Taiwan on Tuesday with the People's Liberation Army saying the exercise was necessary to safeguard China's sovereignty.

China has stepped up military exercises around self-ruled Taiwan, which it considers its own territory.

Recent US-Taiwan provocations severely violated Chinese sovereignty, Eastern Theater Command spokesman Shi Yi said in a statement.

The assault drills were held near Taiwan's southwestern and southeastern waters.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said in a statement it had fully grasped and assessed the situation in the sea and air and was prepared to respond in each respect.

In June, China flew a record 28 fighter jets toward Taiwan.

Last week, officers from the US and Taiwanese coast guards met to discuss improving cooperation and communication.

The meeting followed the announcement of plans by the US to sell 40 self-propelled howitzers to Taiwan in a deal valued at US$ 750 million that drew strong condemnation from Beijing.

The US maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but it is the island's key arms supplier and closest political ally. It has been boosting US-Taiwan ties amid deteriorating relations with China.

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