Taiwan’s defence minister said Thursday China has stepped up “military intimidation” this year by flying an increased number of warplanes around the island as well as accelerating the deployment of ballistic missiles. China claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory to be seized one day — by force if necessary — and has ramped up pressure on the island in recent years, staging at least two rounds of massive war games. Beijing has “stepped up the intensity of its military intimidation to strengthen control over our surrounding waters and airspace”, Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said, reading from a report made to parliament’s defence and foreign affairs committee on Thursday. He pointed to the deployment of the Dongfeng-17 missile — a short-to-medium range rocket that is believed to be capable of releasing a “hypersonic glider” — as well as the Chinese navy accelerating sea trials for its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, which is expected to enter service by 2025. Chiu also said “the number of Chinese warplanes harassing Taiwan rose to around 380 per month (in 2023), escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait”. In the recent three-day “Joint Sword” military exercise in April — in response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with a top US official in California — China had sent “more than 560 sorties” around the island as its military simulated the encirclement of Taiwan, Chiu added. According to announcements made by the defence ministry from April 8 to 10 — the days of the “Joint Sword” exercise — 232 aircraft were detected around Taiwan. Chiu did not elaborate on the discrepancy in numbers, reiterating only that China’s “military expansion has seriously threatened the security across the Taiwan Strait and surrounding areas”. Beijing flies fighter jets and sorties around Taiwan on a near-daily basis, with the highest recent number coming last month when 103 war planes were detected within a 24-hour window. Global fears of a potential conflict between China and Taiwan have increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. When asked to comment on the Israel-Hamas war before the parliamentary session, Chiu told reporters his ministry has formed a task force to “study and analyse” the conflict. “Everyone’s common hope is to avoid war,” he said.