Chinese bomber flies over Taiwan Strait as tensions rise

A handout photo released on Feb 10, 2020 by Taiwan's Defence Ministry shows a Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet flying next to a Chinese H-6 bomber (top) in Taiwan's airspace. PHOTO: AFP/TAIWAN DEFENCE MINISTRY

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Chinese bomber flew over the strategically sensitive sea separating Taiwan from the mainland on Friday (Feb 28), the self-ruled island's defence department said.

The move comes after Taiwan earlier this month scrambled F-16 fighter planes when a Chinese jet crossed into its air space.

"The H-6 bomber passed through our southwestern territorial waters and to the Bashi Channel where it circled back to base," the Friday statement said.

"The whole passage was monitored and there were no abnormalities," it added.

On Feb 10, a Chinese military jet briefly crossed the median line separating the two sides in the first major incursion since Beijing-wary President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected in January.

China was holding a two-day naval and air military exercise off the south-eastern coast of Taiwan when one of its fighter jets crossed into Taiwanese air space.

A military commentator told Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times that the drills were "to warn Taiwan secessionists and also demonstrate the PLA's capability to solve the Taiwan question by force", referring to China's military.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, while Ms Tsai's government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of "one China".

A day later, two American B-52 bombers and a MC-130J Commando II aircraft flew over the waterway to conduct "synchronised training south of the Taiwan Strait", US Pacific Air Force spokesman Victoria Hight said in a statement.

Ms Tsai lashed out at Beijing for taking "meaningless and unnecessary" moves and said it should focus on containing a deadly new coronavirus outbreak.

Beijing has ramped up the number of fighter and warship crossings near Taiwan or through the strait since Ms Tsai was first elected in 2016.

Last March, two Chinese J-11 fighter jets crossed over the line for the first time in years, prompting Taipei to accuse Beijing of violating a long-held tacit agreement in a "reckless and provocative" move.

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