TAIPEI • Taiwan's military has launched aircraft to intercept Chinese planes more than twice as often as all of last year, the Defence Ministry said, describing the island as facing severe security challenges from its huge neighbour.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its military activities near the island, responding to what Beijing calls "collusion" between Taipei and Washington.
In the past weeks, Chinese fighter jets have crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an official buffer between the island and the mainland, and have flown into Taiwan's south-western air defence identification zone.
In a report to Parliament, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said that so far this year the air force had scrambled 4,132 times, up 129 per cent compared to all of last year, according to Reuters calculations.
China "is trying to use unilateral military actions to change the security status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and at the same time is testing our response, increasing pressure on our air defences and shrinking our space for activity", said the report seen by Reuters.
Beijing has been particularly angered by growing US support for Taiwan, including senior US officials visiting the island, adding to broader Sino-US tensions.
President Tsai Ing-wen has been overseeing a military modernisation programme that aims to make the island's armed forces more nimble and Taiwan more difficult to attack.
At a Taiwan-US defence conference late on Monday, Vice-Defence Minister Chang Guan-chung urged enhanced cooperation with the US that goes beyond weapons sales, saying that joint effort in training, intelligence sharing, and armament cooperation are equally important.