Taiwan warns off intruding Chinese aircraft for fourth time in nine days

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan jets on Wednesday again had to warn off Chinese air force aircraft that approached the island, Taiwan’s military said, the fourth such encounter in nine days as China steps up its activity near the Chinese-claimed island.

The Chinese J-10, a fighter plane, and Y-8, a propeller aircraft often used for surveillance missions, entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone around midday (0400GMT) to the southwest of the island, Taiwan’s air force said.

Patrolling Taiwanese fighters gave a verbal warning to the Chinese aircraft to leave, whereupon they “immediately left” the air defence identification zone, the air force said in a brief statement.

“At present the situation is normal,” it added, without giving further details.

Since June 9, China’s air force has flown at least three 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 recent 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