Taiwan has scrambled fighter jets after Chinese military aircraft briefly entered its airspace, the first major incursion since the island’s Beijing-wary president was re-elected in January.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Monday that Chinese H-6 bombers and accompanying aircraft briefly crossed over a “median line” in the Taiwan strait.
The Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, castigates Beijing for taking “meaningless and unnecessary” military moves at a time when it should be containing a deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The virus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed more than 900 people and has spread to Taiwan and other parts of the world.
“I want to remind the Chinese government that it’s not only meaningless but also unnecessary to make military moves at the time of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak,” she said in a posting on Facebook.
Monday’s incursion came after Chinese H-6 bombers and J-11 fighters flew close to Taiwan on Sunday but did not cross the median line, according to the Taiwanese defence ministry.
“For the second day, PLAAF combat aircraft flew close to Taiwan… Listen, H-6 bombers are useless against coronavirus,” tweeted Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu.
The incursion was only the second time Chinese aircraft crossed the largely respected line dividing the two sides in the strait in the past year.
The aircraft returned to Chinese airspace after “our fighter jets took appropriate responsive and interceptive measures and broadcast warnings to leave”, the Taiwanese defence ministry said.
The ministry did not specify how many and what type of Chinese aircraft had crossed the median line on Monday.
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.
China has ramped up the number of fighter and warship crossings near Taiwan or through the strait since Tsai was first elected in 2016.
Her government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”.
In December, shortly before elections, a newly commissioned Chinese aircraft carrier sailed through the Taiwan strait for a second time.
The Shandong, China’s first domestically built carrier, also traversed the strait in November, prompting Washington’s de facto embassy in Taiwan to raise concerns.
Tsai won a second term in a landslide victory in January, an outcome seen as a forceful rebuke of Beijing’s campaign to isolate Taiwan.
China still views the self-ruling democratic island as part of its territory and vows to one day seize it, by force if necessary.