TAIWAN scrambled air force jets on Monday to shadow Chinese fighter jets as they conducted military drills through the Bashi Channel to the south of the island. The incident is the latest in a string of confrontations between Taipei and Beijing.
China sent an unspecified number of Xian H-6 bombers, Su-30 fighter jets and Y-8 transport aircraft over the waterway on their way to the West Pacific Ocean, the Taiwan defence ministry said.
They were followed by Taiwan jets until the mainland aircraft returned to base, it said in a statement.
A week previously, Beijing sent its sole operational aircraft carrier the Liaoning through the narrow Taiwan Strait that separates China from the self-ruled island.
The Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tensions following strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against Taiwan separatism; a highly contentious issue for China.
DAS Alex Wong reaffirmed the strength of U.S.-#Taiwan relations and our shared and enduring values at Taipei AmCham’s New Year’s celebration: “The United States has been, is, and always will be Taiwan’s closest friend and partner.” pic.twitter.com/ZgSKGKUu5n
— EAP Bureau (@USAsiaPacific) March 23, 2018
On March 17, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act, which allows high-level officials to meet their Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa, further angering Beijing.
After US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Alex Wong, arrived in Taipei last Tuesday, Chinese state-owned newspaper The Global Times published an op-ed saying Beijing must “prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Straits.”
Taiwan says China has ramped up military exercises around the island in the past year or so.
While China insists it has no hostile intent, its activities around Taiwan, and in the busy South China Sea waterway, have heightened tensions in the region.
Additional reporting by Reuters