TAIPEI, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Taiwan accused China of exaggeration on Tuesday after the Chinese military published footage of the strategically located Penghu islands, where there is a major Taiwanese air base, saying it was not true Chinese forces had come near the islands.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, has carried out military exercises around the island this month after a visit by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was followed by five U.S. lawmakers on Sunday and Monday.
The Chinese military unit responsible for the area adjacent to Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command, released on Monday video of the Penghu islands, apparently taken by a Chinese air force aircraft.
Taiwan Air Force Vice Chief of Staff for Operations Tung Pei-lun told reporters in Taipei that this was Chinese information warfare, though he said he had no comment on who had taken the video.
“China used the exaggerated tricks of cognitive warfare to show how close it was to Penghu – which is not true,” Tung said.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry on Monday, in an update of Chinese air force activity near Taiwan, showed on a map that the closest Chinese aircraft to Penghu that day were four J-16 fighters.
The fighters crossed the Taiwan Strait median line – normally an unofficial barrier between the two sides – but stayed closer to the Chinese coast than Penghu, the map showed.
Tung said that Taiwan had a real-time “grasp” of what was going on in the skies, and that Chinese aircraft have been operating to the north and southwest of Taiwan and across the median line.
Penghu, a summer tourist destination for its beaches, is close to Taiwan’s southwestern coast, unlike the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen and Matsu islands, which are right next to the Chinese coast.
Taiwan’s armed forces are well-equipped but dwarfed by China’s. The island’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, has been overseeing a modernisation programme and has made increasing defence spending a priority.
Defence Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said next year’s proposed defence budget had been submitted to the Cabinet for approval.
It is based on the “assessment of the enemy threat”, military development needs, and Taiwan’s overall financial resources, he said, without giving details.