Taiwan reports more Chinese military activity, calls for de-escalation

Illustration shows Chinese and Taiwanese flags

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan on Friday reported renewed Chinese military activity nearby with another "combat patrol" as the government called on Beijing not to escalate tensions after the seizure of a Taiwanese fishing boat.

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its pressure over the past four years, both militarily and politically.

On Tuesday, Chinese officials boarded and detained a Taiwanese fishing boat for illegally operating in the country's waters, in what a senior Taiwan official said may be act of psychological warfare.

Taiwan's defence ministry said that starting just before 7 a.m. (2300 GMT) on Friday, it had detected 26 Chinese military aircraft, including J-16 fighters, carrying out a "joint combat readiness patrol" with Chinese warships.

The Chinese aircraft flew into airspace to the north, centre and southern part of Taiwan, the ministry said.

Taiwan has detected at least 127 Chinese military aircraft operating near the island since the start of this month.

China's defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Friday, Taiwan Premier Cho Jung-tai said fishermen should raise their alert level and not do anything that could be considered illegal.

"At the same time, I also want to ask the Chinese side not to escalate with any the use of any excessive measures, because this can easily cause tension and unnecessary confrontation which is extremely unnecessary," he added.

China says the root cause of its problems with Taiwan is what Beijing views as the "separatist" views of new President Lai Ching-te.

China staged war games shortly after Lai took office in May, and has rebuffed his repeated calls for talks.

Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)