Taiwan scrambles jets after 19 Chinese planes enter air defence zone

Taiwan's defence ministry reported 19 aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombers, had flown into the island's air defence identification zone. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan's air force scrambled on Sunday (Sept 5), with its defence ministry reporting that 19 Chinese aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombers, had flown into the nation's air defence identification zone.

Taipei has complained for a year or more of repeated missions by China's air force, often in the south-western part of the air defence zone near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.

The latest Chinese mission involved 10 J-16 and four Su-30 fighters as well as four H-6 bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, and an anti-submarine plane, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said.

Taiwanese combat aircraft were dispatched to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them, the ministry said.

The Chinese aircraft flew in an area closer to the Chinese than Taiwanese coast, roughly north-east of the Pratas, according to a map provided by Taiwan's defence ministry.

There was no immediate comment from China.

The last such large-scale activity, on June 15, involved 28 Chinese air force aircraft, the largest incursion reported by Taiwan to date.

China often mounts such missions to express displeasure at something Taiwan has done or shows of international support for the island, especially by the United States, Taiwan's main arms provider.

China sees the island as a renegade province to be reunited, by force if necessary.

It was not clear what might have prompted China to launch its aircraft this time, though a US warship and a US Coast Guard cutter sailed through the Taiwan Strait late last month.

China has described its activities as necessary to protect the country's sovereignty and deal with "collusion" between Taipei and Washington.

Taiwan's defence ministry warned last week that the threat from China was growing, saying the latter's armed forces can "paralyse" the island's defences and are able to fully monitor its deployments.

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