China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up military and political pressure to try to force the island to accept Chinese rule.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the Chinese plane “deliberately crossed the center line of the strait in a provocative move that has seriously damaged regional peace and stability.”
It said Taiwan’s air force “forcibly expelled” the Chinese plane and deployed ground-to-air missiles to “monitor” the situation.
The center line is an unofficial buffer between China and Taiwan, and military aircraft usually stick to their respective sides, but occasionally China’s air force crosses the line, as happened in 2020 when US officials visited Taiwan.
Several Chinese fighter jets crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait in the northern part of the waterway on Friday, a Taiwanese source who was aware of the matter told Reuters, adding that the planes did not enter Taiwanese airspace.
The source said it was rare for Chinese planes to cross the unofficial buffer, especially from northwestern Taiwan.
The planes “flew just over” the center line and then circled “around” to perform tactical operations, the person said, adding that Taiwan distorted fighter jets to intercept the Chinese planes.
“It was a clear message of provocation,” the person said, referring to U.S. Senator Rick Scott’s visit Friday in Taipei, a senior Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee and serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. .
Earlier Friday, the Chinese military said it had conducted joint combat preparedness exercises, patrols and combat exercises in the sea and airspace around Taiwan.
The exercises, announced by the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, were organized in response to “coordination and provocations” from the United States and Taiwan, China Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, detests any official interaction between US and Taiwanese officials and routinely describes Taiwan as the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with Washington.
Chinese spokesman Wu said Scott’s visit to Taiwan had seriously undermined relations between China and the United States and escalated tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is ready for war at any time and will take all necessary measures to resolutely oppose the interference of external forces and the attempts at secession of ‘Taiwan’s independence’.”
After meeting with President Tsai in Taipei on Friday, Scott told reporters he believes “the world has changed” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We all need to put ourselves in a position to ensure that we defend the freedom we all believe in,” he said. “I think it would be helpful if Taiwan participated in RIMPAC, and I hope it will in the future.”
The “Rim of the Pacific” exercise, known as RIMPAC, is considered the world’s largest international maritime exercise, the most recent of which began late last month with 26 nations participating in exercises around Hawaii and Southern California.
The Taiwanese government has condemned Chinese pressure, saying only its 23 million people can determine their future.
Tensions between the United States and China run high over a number of issues, including Taiwan, the South China Sea, trade tariffs and Beijing’s refusal to openly criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Bali.