Taiwan leader tells troops to keep cool amid Chinese threats

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PENGHU, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan's president told the self-ruled island's military units Tuesday to keep their cool in the face of daily warplane flights and warship maneuvers by rival China, saying that Taiwan will not allow Beijing to provoke a conflict.

China has kept up military pressure on Taiwan in the weeks following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in early August. Beijing initially retaliated with large military drills in the waters and skies near Taiwan. It fired missiles over the island, some of which landed in Japan’s economic zone, considered a serious escalation, while also sending warships and planes toward the island in large numbers.

President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan must remain restrained despite the daily pressure from China.

“The more provocative enemy soldiers are, the more stable we need to be. We will not allow those on the opposing banks to manufacture a conflict with an inappropriate excuse,” she said during a visit to the navy's station on Penghu, an archipelago of several dozen islands off Taiwan's western coast.

She also inspected a radar squadron, an air defense company, and a navy fleet.

At the Magong air base, she was greeted by pilots standing in front of a Taiwanese-made Indigenous Defense Force fighter jet.

“You are the pride of the Taiwanese people,” Tsai said. “When each Taiwanese person sees you in the national military uniform, everyone’s hearts are filled with respect and gratitude.”

China accuses the U.S. and Taiwanese “separatist forces” for creating instability by rejecting Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over the island.

“The Taiwan independence forces’ attempt to solicit foreign support, including that of the U.S., for independence is the source of current tensions across the Taiwan Strait,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing in Beijing.

Zhao also criticized the visit of Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Bucaro to Taiwan on Tuesday.

“The Taiwanese ... authority has been using the so-called countries with diplomatic ties for political manipulation. These are nothing but self-deceiving tricks and cannot block the historical trend that China will be fully reunified," he added.

Bucaro met with Tsai earlier Tuesday and reaffirmed his country's support of Taiwan. Guatemala is one of Taiwan's 14 remaining diplomatic allies.

“Guatemala will always support Taiwan because we have very firm belief in the principles of peace, sovereignty, and territorial integrity," he said. “The Guatemalan government strongly believes that people have the right to enjoy peace in their lives, and the right to live in peace is not negotiable.”

While China's biggest maneuvers, which had disrupted fishing, shipping and air traffic, are over, Beijing has kept up the pressure in recent weeks with daily flights by warplanes and warship navigations, often over the median line of the Taiwan Strait, a waterway that separates the island from China.

Taiwan has responded by tracking the ships and the planes, issued warnings and used its missile systems to monitor the other side's movements.

China has also sent drones flying over the Kinmen islands, which are closest to China, in the latest escalation. A video that went viral last week showed two soldiers staring up at the drone from an outpost in an outlying island in Kinmen before attempting to strike it down with a rock. This weekend, another video published online allegedly showed a Chinese drone flying around a different outlying island.

A spokesperson for Kinmen's army unit said in a statement Monday that Taiwan would take a four-step measure to deal with drones in the future, which involves warning it off, reporting the incursion, expelling the drone, and finally shooting it down if it doesn't leave.