WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (Reuters) – US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that Chinese military flights near Taiwan looked like “rehearsals,” although he did not indicate he expected what Beijing is actually carrying out such operations.
Tensions across the strait have increased in recent months, with Taiwan complaining for a year or more about repeated Chinese air force missions near the autonomous island that Beijing claims to be its own.
“I don’t mean to speculate, but certainly… it sounds a lot like rehearsals,” Austin said at a conference in California.
Military training flights are by definition repetitions of potential operations.
China has not ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, despite the island’s claim that it is an independent country that will defend its freedom and democracy.
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Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Cynthia Osterman
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