China Sends Warplanes As Taiwan Honours Former President

Taiwan's defence ministry said China dispatched 19 planes on Saturday, two of which were bombers.

China sent warplanes towards Taiwan for the second day on Saturday as the island paid tribute to former president Lee Teng-hui.

Among those honouring the man who led Taiwan's transition to democracy were the island's leader, senior government officials, and a United States envoy.

Keith Krach, the US under-secretary for state, attended but his presence was criticised by China, which sent 18 warplanes across the midline of the Taiwan Strait in a show of force on Friday.

The following day, Taiwan's defence ministry said Beijing dispatched another 19 warplanes, two of which were bombers.

The island's air force scrambled its own planes and deployed an air defence missile system to keep an eye on China's activities, a statement said.

Aletheia University in Taipei was the venue for Saturday morning's service, with President Tsai Ing-wen honouring Mr Lee for bringing a peaceful political transition to the island democracy.

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and the Dalai Lama paid tribute from afar.

"We Buddhists believe in life after life, so most probably he will be reborn in Taiwan," the Dalai Lama said in a video message.

"His rebirth will carry his spirit continuously."

Also among the guests was another former Japanese prime minister, Yoshiro Mori.

A 21-Gun Salute fired at an official memorial service for late Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui who passed away in July (Picture: PA).

Mr Lee built a Taiwanese political identity distinct from mainland China, which sees Taiwan as its own territory to be claimed by force if needs be.

His insistence that the island be treated as an equal country, and the carving out of a non-Chinese identity, brought him into direct conflict with Beijing.

He died on July 30, aged 97.

Donald Trump's administration has recently angered China by taking steps to strengthen its engagement with Taiwan.

Mr Krach became the latest high-level official to visit Taiwan, following US Health Secretary Alex Azar in August.

An editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times said on Friday: "Every time a high-ranking US official visits Taiwan, the fighter jets of the PLA (People's Liberation Army) should be one step closer to the island.

"The US and Taiwan must not misjudge the situation, or believe the exercise is a bluff. Should they continue to make provocations, a war will inevitably break out."

Cover image: An official memorial service for late Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui who passed away in July (Picture: PA).