Taiwan scrambled its jets Saturday in response to what the United States said were Chinese SU-27 fighter jets, one of two incidents that underscored rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the aircraft were responding to “unauthorized aerial intrusions” into the country’s airspace. The ministry released photographs of two Chinese SU-27s over Taiwan, with one in the grey markings typical of an air force jet, one in the red markings that are typical of a military jet.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said its fighter jets were initially alerted to the Chinese SU-27s entering its airspace. It said it received reports of another Chinese fighter jet near the island following an investigation, which concluded that the two planes were not flying over Taiwan but had instead been flying in China’s airspace.
The Taiwanese defense ministry said it had launched a “depth analysis” of the incidents.
Air combat is just one of the more than 200 areas under China’s strict control in the sprawling seas and air borders that extend to the edge of its borders. China had just finished taking over a contested reef in the South China Sea and had to make sure it had legal permission before it did so.
The Liaoning guided-missile destroyer sank two Philippine military boats that ran afoul of Chinese sovereignty claims during exercises in the South China Sea. A previous flotilla completed a four-month deployment, which included a near-seamless transit through Taiwan Strait and frequent patrols and drills in the East China Sea, also claimed by Japan.
China claimed the Spratly islands as its own last year and has its own coast guard. It also maintains islands, reefs and shoals across the strategic waterway.
Last month, China sent a military aircraft made up of fighter jets and helicopters to the Spratlys after a Chinese fishing boat was violently rammed in Chinese territorial waters by Filipino fishermen.
A Philippine foreign ministry official told journalists Saturday that Manila would lodge “concern and protest” with Beijing over the fighter jets’ flight to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Taiwan, which is frequently threatened by China, has two strategic military radar sites — one in the Taiwan Strait and another near to the Kaohsiung city in southern Taiwan.
The Latest on Taiwanese presidential election (all times local):
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says she hopes the military will take care of all issues relevant to the island’s defense during her upcoming inauguration.
Tsai spoke on Saturday while campaigning for April 15 presidential elections. She promised to defend democracy and remove obstacles to entry into the elections on the Taiwan Strait.
Tsai also says she hopes Taiwan’s island fighter jets could be equipped with bigger bombs, rockets and missiles to support election efforts.