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China military incursions inch closer to Taiwan, sources say

TAIPEI — China's military has sailed and flown closer to Taiwan in recent weeks than it has before, and staged mock attacks on foreign vessels ahead of the inauguration of the island's next president on Monday, according to Taiwanese government reports.

Taiwan will inaugurate its new president, Lai Ching-te, as Beijing ramps up military and political pressure to assert its sovereignty over democratically governed Taiwan — a claim Taipei strongly rejects.

Since late April an increasing number of Chinese military planes and vessels have staged drills that have alarmed Taiwan, including close approaches to the island's contiguous zone, which is 24 nautical miles (44 km) off its coast, according to two Taiwan officials and internal reports reviewed by Reuters.

Taiwan had anticipated intensified Chinese military activity, Deputy Defence Minister Po Horng-huei told reporters last week. Reuters reported exclusively on Monday that Taiwan and the US Navy held unpublicised drills in April.

On Tuesday evening, 15 Chinese planes, including Su-30 jets, crossed the median line and entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone, carrying out "joint combat readiness patrols" in conjunction with warships, according to Taiwan's defence ministry.

Some of the planes simulated attacks on foreign vessels entering the southern Taiwan Strait or the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, said one of them, a senior security official, citing intelligence gathered by Taiwan.

"They are like flies buzzing us everyday," the official said, noting changes in the flight patterns, scale and frequency.

China's defence ministry and its Taiwan Affairs Office did not respond to requests for comment.

On May 11-12, about 10 Chinese vessels,