TAIPEI (Reuters) - Chinese air force aircraft approached Taiwan on Thursday for the fifth time in 10 days, before being warned away by Taiwanese fighters, the island’s air force said, in a further ratcheting up of tensions across the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
The Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter aircraft flew into the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone in the morning, Taiwan’s air force said in a statement.
Taiwanese fighters, which regularly patrol the air space around the Chinese-claimed island, warned the Chinese aircraft over the radio, whereupon they left Taiwan’s air defence zone, it added, without giving further details.
Since June 9, China’s air force has flown at least four other similar missions and were each time chased off by Taiwanese jets, according to Taiwan’s military.
Taiwan has complained that China, which claims the democratic island as its own, has stepped up military activities in recent months, menacing Taiwan even as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic.
China has not commented publicly on the last week of Chinese air force activity near Taiwan. Beijing routinely says such exercises are nothing unusual and are designed to show the country’s determination to defend its sovereignty.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control. One of China’s most senior generals last month said China would attack if there was no other way of stopping Taiwan becoming independent.
China is deeply suspicious of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whom it accuses of being a separatist intent on declaring formal independence. Tsai says Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore