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Motorcyclists ride past a Taiwanese national flag on the outlying island of Penghu, Taiwan October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

(reuters_tickers)

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan is prepared to defend itself against China if necessary, the self-ruled island's defence ministry said on Tuesday, in a strongly worded response to recent flybys by Chinese warplanes near the island China claims as a wayward province.

China's military has flown several fighter and reconnaissance aircraft near Taiwan for training exercises in the past few days, according to the ministry.

"The People's Liberation Army has never given up on the idea of resolving problems through the use of military force," ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi told a news briefing.

"We believe in peace. We will not take the initiative that could lead to war. But we will not back down in the face of threats."

Taiwan was strategically prepared to ensure Taiwan's security in both the air and sea, Chen added, without elaborating.

China has yet to offer an account of the recent drills near Taiwan. China's air force said earlier this month its fighters and bombers had recently conducted "multiple" long-range drills far out at sea, including flying near Japan and Taiwan.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing is also worried about a government in Taiwan China fears is intent on independence.

Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has warned any moves towards formal independence could prompt an armed response.

Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.

China is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme that includes building aircraft carriers and developing stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores.

(Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Ben Blanchard)

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Reuters