TAIPEI/BEIJING • Taiwan scrambled jets on Tuesday to warn away 29 Chinese aircraft in its air defence zone, including bombers that flew to the south of the island and into the Pacific, in the latest uptick in tensions and largest incursion since late last month.
China views Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary.
Taiwan has complained for the past two years or so of repeated missions by the Chinese air force near the island, often in the south-western part of its air defence identification zone (ADIZ), close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
Taiwan calls China's repeated nearby military activities "grey zone" warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwanese forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwanese responses.
The latest Chinese mission included 17 fighters and six H-6 bombers, as well as electronic warfare, early warning, anti-submarine and aerial refuelling aircraft, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said.
Some of the aircraft flew in an area to the north-east of the Pratas, according to a map the ministry provided.
However, the bombers, also accompanied by an intelligence gathering aircraft, flew into the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan from the Philippines and into the Pacific before turning back to China on the route they came in.
It was the largest incursion since Taiwan reported 30 Chinese aircraft in its ADIZ on May 30. The largest to date this year occurred on Jan 23, involving 39 aircraft.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said yesterday the large-scale exercise by the Chinese military showed that China's military threat is "more serious than ever".
A US State Department spokesman told Reuters that Beijing should "cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and intimidation against Taiwan".
China launched its third aircraft carrier last Friday, the Fujian, named after the province opposite Taiwan.
China's military said last month that it had conducted an exercise around Taiwan as a "solemn warning" against its "collusion" with the United States.
That came after US President Joe Biden angered China by appearing to signal a change in a US policy of "strategic ambiguity" on Taiwan by saying the US would get involved militarily if China were to attack the island.
Separately, Taiwanese and US officials are convening in Washington this week to discuss arms sales, the Taipei-based United Daily News reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin yesterday urged the US to stop selling arms to Taiwan.
"We consistently and firmly oppose US official interactions and arms sales to, and military interactions with, Taiwan," he added.