Taiwan’s defense ministry on said that a total of eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets entered the southwestern corner of the island’s air defense identification zone on Saturday.
In recent months, China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted almost daily flights over the waters between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea. However, they have generally consisted of just one or two reconnaissance aircraft.
The presence of so many Chinese combat aircraft on this mission – Taiwan said it was made up of eight nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and four J-16 fighter jets – was unusual.
A map provided by Taiwan’s defense ministry showed that the Chinese aircraft, including a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew over the same waters where the most recent Chinese missions have been taking place near the Pratas Islands, though still well away from mainland Taiwan.
Taiwan’s air force warned away the Chinese aircraft and deployed missiles to monitor them, the ministry said, using standard wording for how it responds to such activities.
“Airborne alert sorties had been tasked, radio warnings issued and air defense missile systems deployed to monitor the activity,” it said in a brief statement.
The U.S. State Department urged China to stop pressuring Taiwan and reaffirmed its commitment to the island and desire to deepen ties.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defence capability.”
In the past, China has said it has been carrying out exercises to defend its sovereignty and security.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed its thanks for the show of U.S. support, adding they would work closely with the Biden administration to strengthen their close partnership.