China: Military drills, flights were needed to defend Taiwan

Beijing: China's recent increase in military exercises and warplane missions near Taiwan which have raised concerns around the region were necessary to defend the nation's sovereignty and territory, a Chinese official said Wednesday.

China's military flew 56 planes off the southwest coast of Taiwan on a single day earlier this month, a single-day record that capped four days of a sustained pressure campaign involving 149 flights. All were in international airspace, but the display raised fears that any misstep could provoke an unintended escalation in the region.

Taiwan views China's moves as advertising its threat to bring the island it claims as its own territory under its control by military means as necessary. The sides split amid civil war in 1949 and have no official contacts.

The purpose of the maneuvers was to fundamentally safeguard the overall interests of the Chinese nation and the vital interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait," said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office.

The People's Liberation Army exercises are necessary actions to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Ma told reporters at a biweekly news conference in Beijing.

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