Taiwanese fighter jets have been scrambled to intercept 27 Chinese military aircraft after they passed within a kilometre of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, in the largest incursion to take place this year, officials said on Friday.
Taiwanese defence ministry spokesman Colonel Paul Yeh confirmed that the planes “passed over” Taiwan on Thursday in an incident he said appeared to have been conducted by the Chinese military.
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“At the time of the occurrence the Chinese military aircraft did not pose a threat to the Republic of China,” Yeh said, using Taiwan’s formal name. “They came within a kilometre of Taiwan’s shoreline. We have protested to China and on Friday morning our fighter jets went out to intercept their planes.”
Yeh said the incursion was the second this year and occurred just hours after China hit back at US moves to use the dollar to pledge more support for Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China.
Chinese state television CCTV said on Friday that Chinese aircraft carried out drills over Taiwan and its maritime area including airspace around the Bohai Strait, as well as the strait separating China and Taiwan.
The drills were taking place while defence minister Wei Fenghe held a meeting with the defence of Yang Yi, a Taiwanese rear admiral who is also the deputy minister of Taiwan’s National Defence.
“Chinese military aircraft targeted Taiwan’s airspace. They did not target our military air traffic control and stayed near us for less than three hours. It was too short,” Wei was quoted as saying.
“They wanted to drive a message: ‘We’ll not change. We still will get to Taiwan’,” Wei added.
China has increasingly assertive claims on the disputed South China Sea, as well as claims to Taiwan and Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea.