BEIJING/TAIPEI • Chinese aircraft have again flown around self-ruled Taiwan in what China's air force yesterday called a "sacred mission", as Taiwan denounced its big neighbour over what it called a policy of military intimidation.
H-6K bombers, Su-30 and J-11 fighters and reconnaissance aircraft took part in a patrol around Taiwan, air force spokesman Shen Jinke told the official Xinhua news agency yesterday.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said the air force fly-by served as a warning against those pushing for Taiwanese independence.
China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around it.
"The motherland is in our hearts, and the jewelled island is in the bosom of the motherland," H-6K captain Zhai Peisong was quoted as saying in a statement on the Chinese airforce's microblog yesterday.
"Defending the beautiful rivers and mountains of the motherland is the sacred mission of air force pilots."
Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, is one of China's most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.
More recently, China has been incensed by Taiwan Premier William Lai's comments that it deemed were in support of Taiwan independence, though Taipei says Mr Lai's position remains that the status quo between Taiwan and the mainland should be maintained.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island on Wednesday afternoon, passing first through the Miyako Strait, to Taiwan's north-east, then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
Later that day, Chinese state media said the military had also conducted live-fire drills with helicopters along its south-east coast, without confirming whether the exercises took place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of helicopters firing missiles at distant objects in the waterway.
China had said the live-fire drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China's coast but which Taiwan has controlled since 1949, when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island after the Chinese civil war.
Taiwan's China policymaking Mainland Affairs Council said the drills as well as the Chinese air force fly-by amounted to "military intimidation".
"Our determination to defend the country's sovereign dignity will never give in to any threat or inducement of force," it said.
The latest Chinese military action follows strong warnings last month by Chinese President Xi Jinping against any Taiwan separatism.
China's hostility towards Taiwan has grown since Ms Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party became President of the island in 2016.
China fears she wants to push for independence. Ms Tsai says she is committed to peace and maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, but will defend Taiwan's security.
Ms Tsai on Wednesday began a visit to the southern African nation of Swaziland, one of only 20 countries which maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE