- China flies almost daily over Taiwan’s waters
- However, the larger scale of this last mission was unusual
- China has previously said it is carrying out such exercises to defend its sovereignty
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has carried out almost daily flights over the waters between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea in recent months.
However, they usually consist of one or two reconnaissance planes.
The presence of such a large number of Chinese fighter jets during Saturday’s mission – Taiwan said it was made up of eight nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and four J-16 fighter jets – is unusual .
A map provided by the Taiwan Defense Ministry showed that the Chinese plane, which also included a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew over the same waters where the most recent Chinese missions took place near the Pratas Islands, although still a long way from mainland Taiwan.
The Taiwan Air Force has warned Chinese planes and deployed missiles to monitor them, the ministry added, using standard wording for how it responds to such activities.
There was no immediate comment from China. In the past, China has said it has conducted exercises to defend the country’s sovereignty and security.
Beijing has watched with growing concern the increase in US support for democratic Taiwan, especially under the administration of Donald Trump, who left office on Wednesday.
Last year, during visits by senior U.S. officials to Taipei, Chinese planes briefly crossed the center line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer.
The theft of Chinese bombers and fighters on Saturday came just days after Joe Biden assumed the US presidency.
Emily Horne, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said the United States’ engagement in Taiwan was “rock solid” after the island’s de facto ambassador to Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, attended Mr. Biden’s swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.