China has launched its largest incursion yet into Taiwan’s air defence zone, the Taiwanese government has said.
More than 70 Chinese aircraft, including fighter jets and drones, entered the zone in the past 24 hours, and 43 of them briefly crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line.
The median line is an unofficial buffer between the two sides, but one that Beijing has never officially recognised.
Seven Chinese navy ships were also detected near Taiwan, the country’s defence ministry said.
Shi Yi, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Eastern Theatre Command, said: “This is a firm response to the current US-Taiwan escalation and provocation.”
Shi was talking about the US defence spending bill, which described China as a strategic challenge and approved more security cooperation with Taiwan.
The Taiwanese defence ministry said it sent combat aircraft to deter the Chinese planes, while missile systems monitored the situation.
The Chinese government claims democratic Taiwan must return to China, and it has increasingly harassed the island in recent years, regularly sending planes or ships towards it.
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Taiwan rejects China’s claim of sovereignty, and its official news agency said there was no sense of alarm on the island following the latest development.
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen did not address China’s actions directly when she spoke to military officers on Monday morning.
But she called for Taiwan to boost its defence capacity due to “the continuous expansion of authoritarianism”.
“The more preparations we make, the less likely there will be rash attempts of aggression,” she said.
“The more united we are, the stronger and safer Taiwan would become.”