TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Amid rising threats from China, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday said the self-governing island was determined to strengthen its defenses.
Speaking at the opening of a maintenance center for the island’s F-16 fighter jets, Tsai said Taiwan wanted to “let the world to see our strong will in protecting the country.”
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has recently stepped up its threats to use force to annex it if it deems necessary.
China has protested recent moves by the U.S. to boost government and military contacts with Taiwan by staging war games in the Taiwan Strait that Beijing’s Defense Ministry said were a “necessary move responding to the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and were meant to safeguard national sovereignty.”
Taiwan’s F-16 fleet forms the backbone of its defense against a numerically superior Chinese force that has sent planes to circle the island and push up against the dividing line between the sides in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan is upgrading the existing fleet of F-16s and buying 66 of the latest version of the fighters. It’s also investing in its domestic defense industry.
The new maintenance center will reduce the time required to keep the jets in the air, Tsai said.
“Building up our defense industry is the cornerstone of Taiwan’s national defense and it enhances the combat capability of the army. It’s a symbol of Taiwan’s determination,” Tsai said.