The island state’s Defence Ministry said that a squadron of six Chinese fighter jets made up of two J-10s and four J-11s had flown over its territorial waters near the Pratas Islands. In an unusual move the Ministry confirmed that a US reconnaissance aircraft was also present in the same southwestern part of the defence zone. Taiwan rarely goes public about US military activity around its shores, although the US carries out frequent naval and air missions in the region, according to diplomatic and security sources.
This latest incident comes after Chinese jets carried out “simulated missile attacks” on the US aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt just over a week ago in the same waters.
The aircraft carrier is part of the US Indo-Pacific Command and entered the South China Sea on January 23 and was stationed in Taiwanese waters.
On the same day 11 Chinese military fighter jets, including H-6 bombers, flew to the area.
Pilot cockpit conversations intercepted by Taiwan and US intelligence confirmed that the fighter pilots were taking part in a simulated missile strike against the US warships, sources said.
The US military accused China of destabilising and aggressive behaviour in relation to the incident, but insisted that none of their personnel were in danger.
A diplomatic source told Reuters that China had deliberately carried out its air drills to coincide with the arrival of the US aircraft carrier.
The source claimed that China is determined to drive the US out of the South China Sea.
Like most countries, the US has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is the island’s most powerful international backer and supplier of weapons.
However, Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory and believes it has no right to independence.
China’s Defence Ministry last week warned Taiwan’s democratically elected government that a declaration of independence would amount to a declaration of war.