Two Chinese fighter planes intruded into Taiwanese airspace, the defense ministry said today, in an incident local press said resulted from their attempts to drive away a US spy aircraft.
In the high-altitude face-off, one Chinese jet did not leave until two Taiwanese planes were sent to intercept it, the island’s United Daily News reported.
The incident took place in late June when two SU-27 fighter planes of China’s People’s Liberation Army tried to drive away a US U2 reconnaissance aircraft, the News said.
The US plane was reportedly flying along the Taiwan Strait to collect information about the Chinese mainland.
One of the Chinese fighters crossed the middle of the Taiwan Strait, widely considered to be the boundary between Taiwan’s airspace and that of the mainland, the News said.
“The intruder did not turn back until two F-16 fighters of (the) Taiwan Air Force scrambled to intercept it,” it said, citing an unnamed military source.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said that two Chinese Su-27s had briefly flown over the middle of the Strait on June 29.
The ministry said the incident was not “provocative”, but sparked concerns.
The incident highlighted fragile mutual trust between Taiwan and China, despite fast-warming ties since President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power in 2008.
Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and refuses to abandon the possibility of taking Taiwan by force, even though the island has ruled itself since 1949, when the two sides split at the end of a civil war.
The United States gives diplomatic recognition to Beijing and not Taipei, but provides military support to Taiwan. Under a 1979 act of Congress, the United States is required to provide Taiwan with arms to defend itself.
Last week in its national defense report, published every other year, Taiwan’s defense ministry warned that the military threat to the island from China was greater than ever.
It said the People’s Liberation Army has continued to deploy various new weapons in the Fujian and Guangdong areas, referring to two Chinese provinces located directly to the west of Taiwan.
It said the PLA has more than 1,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.