Taiwan has said it scrambled its combat aircraft after 25 Chinese fighter jets entered its defence zone on a day Beijing marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
The latest Chinese incursion – its biggest in weeks – involved 18 J-16 and four Su-30 fighters, two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, and an anti-submarine aircraft, the Taiwan ministry said on Friday.
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It said Taiwan sent combat aircraft to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them.
Taiwan has complained for a year or more of repeated missions by China’s air force near the democratically governed island often in the southwestern part of its air defence zone close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
The Chinese aircraft flew in an area close to the Pratas, with the two bombers flying closest to the atoll, according to a map issued by the ministry.
There was no immediate comment from China, which claims Taiwan as its own.
The largest incursion to date happened in June, involving 28 Chinese air force aircraft.
China’s latest mission came less than a day after its government launched a vituperative attack on Taiwan’s foreign minister, evoking the words of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong to denounce him as a “shrilling” fly for his efforts to promote Taiwan internationally.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, a fluent English speaker, is an outspoken supporter of the island’s efforts to push back against pressure from China and regularly appears on think-tank and other panels.
In a lengthy denunciation of Wu late on Thursday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said he was a “diehard” supporter of Taiwan independence who peddled lies that Taiwan is a sovereign country.
It quoted a poem written by Mao in 1963, The River All Red, which was a denunciation of the Soviet Union and the United States.
“All forms of comments on Taiwan independence are but flies ‘humming, with a burst of shrilling and a fit of sobbing’,” Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the attack was “not worthy” of commenting on.
However, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which crafts policy on China, condemned it as “slander and abuse”.
“This kind of verbal violence, unprecedented in the international community, only highlights the overstepping of the rules of the Taiwan-related body on the other side of the Taiwan Strait and how far away it is from civilized society.”
China has stepped up military and political pressure to try and force Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty.
Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedom and democracy.
The incursion also came after Britain sent a warship through the Taiwan Strait on Monday for the first time since 2008, a move that challenged Beijing’s claim to the sensitive waterway and marked a rare voyage by a non-US military vessel.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command lashed out at the voyage, accusing Britain of acting out of “evil intentions to sabotage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.
US warships regularly conduct “freedom of navigation” exercises in the waterway separating Taiwan and mainland China, triggering angry responses from Beijing.