Taiwan now arming F-16s with anti-ship missiles amid fears over China invasion

TAIWAN has begun deploying advanced anti-ship missiles on fighter jets as fears of an invasion by China mount, it was reported.

F-16 Viper planes have been carrying air patrol missions armed with live AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Their pairing with the missile represents a key element in Taiwan’s ability to defend itself against any invasion threat from China, The Drive reports.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has long threatened to use force to bring it under its control.

Former Chinese president Chiang Kai-shek and his supporters fled to the island in 1949 following the Chinese Communist Party victory in the country's civil war.

The island of 25 million people has since developed its own democratic identity and party of current President Tsai Ing-wen supports moves towards full independence – which Beijing says will trigger war.

China’s People’s Liberation Army is reportedly planning a simulated invasion of the Dongsha Islands – also known as the Pratas Islands – which are administered by Taiwan.

The islands are administered by 276 miles from Taiwan and 200 miles from mainland China and the wargames promoted Taiwan to reinforce them with marines.

Details of the new deployment from an air base at Hualien came from aviation reporter Roy Choo who tweeted:

“Ahead of a potential PLA island-seizing exercise, purportedly representative of the Pratas Islands, the ROCAF launched two 5th TFW F-16As on CAP this morning, both fitted out with air-launched AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile satellite images reportedly show amphibious armoured vehicles and mobile missile launchers massing at military bases near the island nation.

Beijing cut ties with the islands government after the election President in 2016, and has continued to seek to isolate it diplomatically while raising the military threat.

Recent flights over Taiwan by the Chinese military are part of escalating preparations to take over the island, its foreign minister has said.

Joseph Wu said that China is now sending planes near the island on an almost daily basis.

"Looking on the long-term trend, China appears to be gradually stepping up its military preparedness, especially in the air or on the waters near Taiwan," he said.

Wu's warning comes amid rising tensions between the US and China over military activity in the South China Sea as well as a new crackdown in Hong Kong and the Beijing government's handling of the coronavirus.

US defence secretary Mark Esper warned that China's recent activity in the area around Taiwan “significantly increase the risk of miscalculation”.

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