Taiwan navy, air force to train in South China Sea due to growing threat from China
Sailors stand on board Taiwan's newest domestically-produced missile frigate as manufacturer China Shipbulding Crop hands the ship over to the military in Kaohsiung March 11, 2004. Reuters (Representational Image)

Taiwan's defence ministry said on Thursday that the navy will step up regular patrols around the South China Sea and conduct joint training with the air force in response to China's growing military power in the region.

"Looking ahead at the transformation of China's strategy and its investment in new weapons equipment, our military will practice new reforms in our training," Feng Shih-kuan, the defence minister of Taiwan told a parliamentary session.

"The navy, during its regular South China Sea patrols, will conduct joint training with the air force in protecting fishermen and supply transports, and in humanitarian rescue, drills to expand the combat readiness of our sea and air patrols," Feng added as he presented the ministry's latest report.

According to reports, Taiwan deploys regular supplies to Itu Aba, which is its sole holding in the disputed South China Sea. Apart from Taiwan, the energy-rich waterway is also claimed by China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.

These latest remarks by Feng comes ahead of China's new defence budget for 2017 that is scheduled to be revealed on the weekend at the annual meeting of the Chinese parliament. The figures are closely watched around the region and in Washington for clues to China's intentions.

China has been repeatedly giving military threats in order to protect its sovereignty over the South China Sea and Taiwan, a self-ruled island, is increasingly concerned over the matter. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems as a wayward province.

China has been regularly performing military drills in the South China Sea. Recently, it sailed its first aircraft carrier around Taiwan. When questioned, Beijing claimed it to be a part of the routine drills. Feng said that the need for China to practice these drills in the bigger air and sea space, especially in the Pacific Ocean to Taiwan's east, clearly hints at "an increase in threat".

When asked about the positioning of a surface-to-air anti-missile system, the Patriot Advanced Capability, on Taiwan's eastern coast, Feng said that "the deployment of this force is done entirely for the security of our country." The Patriot anti-missile system is among the defence wares of Taiwan.