Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen enjoys a light moment on a ferry ride near the Statue of Liberty in New York, despite an ongoing drill by the Chinese military near Taiwan. Photo: Handout

@The People’s Libration Army is in the middle of a war game in waters near the Taiwan Strait during which the force’s ace fighter the J-20 was spotted buzzing vessels, according to some posts on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social networking service.

The muscle-flexing followed Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s ferry cruise along the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty in New York City as well as a chat over the phone with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her much-hyped layover in the American city.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, while seeking to downplay Beijing’s menacing, stressed on Monday that the president was given hourly briefs about the deployment and maneuvers of the Chinese warplanes and vessels involved in the ongoing drill, which comes hot on the heels of a US$2.22 billion arms sale of over a hundred combat tanks and hundreds of missiles to the self-ruled island, announced by the Pentagon last week.

It was understood, however, that no Chinese aircraft strayed across the tacit line delineating the boundary between Chinese and Taiwanese airspace above the strait’s troubled waters, and thus no Taiwanese fighters were scrambled to intercept any intrusion.

The PLA stages frequent military exercises in the waters and skies around Taiwan, including intensive circumnavigations by its fighters and bombers. Though Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, it is legally bound under the Taiwan Relations Act passed in 1979 to protect the island if it is threatened by an external force.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen attends a welcome reception inside a hotel in New York City as pro- and anti-reunification activists tussle outside.
Tsai delivers a speech on defending democracy at Columbia University.
Tsai poses for a group photo with Taiwanese expats in New York’s Central Park. Photos: Handouts

Meanwhile, in Tsai’s teleconference with Pelosi, which was only announced after the Taiwan president left New York for Haiti, she said she was grateful to Pelosifor her support for Taiwan, which saw the House of Representatives’ endorsement of continued US arms sales in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.

In New York, Tsai also met former US secretary of state Richard Armitage, UN representatives of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies at Taipei’s liaison office in the city, hosted a cocktail reception for US Congressmen, delivered a speech at Columbia University and enjoyed a stroll in Central Park with Taiwanese expats.

Taiwan’s leaders have previously been prohibited from making public appearances during transit stops in the US.

Read more: Arms sale heralds new era as Taiwan’s Tsai heads for NYC, Denver

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