Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force aircraft yesterday passed through the narrow Bashi Channel to the south of Taiwan on a long-range exercise, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said, the first publicized drills near the nation since elections earlier this month.
China has routinely sent bombers and other aircraft close to Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016.
Beijing believes that Tsai is pushing for Taiwan’s formal independence.
In an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Tsai said Taiwan is already an independent nation called the Republic of China.
She won re-election by a landslide on Jan. 11 on a platform of standing up to China.
In a short statement, the MND said that the Chinese airplanes, including H-6 bombers and KJ-500 early warning and control aircraft, flew to the south of Taiwan through the Bashi Channel, which separates the nation from the Philippines.
After carrying out drills above the Pacific Ocean, the aircraft returned to China, the ministry said.
The armed forces have a well-honed system to monitor and respond to such drills, it added, without giving details or saying whether fighter jets were scrambled.
The Chinese Ministry of National Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Following Tsai’s re-election, Chinese state media suggested that China could flex its muscles near Taiwan to register Beijing’s continued displeasure with Tsai.
The seas around Taiwan are a closely watched zone not only for Taipei, but also Beijing.
A US warship last week sailed through the Taiwan Strait, with the US Navy conducting sporadic transits of the waterway since 2018.
China sailed its newest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, through the Taiwan Strait twice in the run-up to the Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections.
Taipei denounced that as attempted intimidation.
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