Taiwan Slams China for Fighter Incursion

Taipei hit out at China on March 31 for what it said was a “reckless and provocative” incursion by two fighter aircraft across a largely respected line dividing the two sides in the Taiwan Strait.

The defence ministry said Taiwan scrambled its own aircraft and broadcast warnings after two J-11 fighters crossed over the “median line” within the waters that separate the island from the mainland.

A spokesman for Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen, called China’s flights “provocative and damaging the cross-straits status quo”.

“On March 31, 2 PLAAF J-11 jets violated the long-held tacit agreement by crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait,” the ministry of foreign affairs said on Twitter.

“It was an intentional, reckless and provocative action. We have informed regional partners and condemn China for such behaviour,” the ministry added.

China has ramped up the number of fighter and warship crossings near Taiwan or through the straits in recent years, rattling nerves on the island at a time when relations are at a low point.

But it is highly unusual for them to cross the so-called median line, a widely agreed upon boundary that passes through the middle of the straits. Taiwanese news media reported that the last time Chinese jets had crossed the line was in 2011.

That incident was portrayed by both sides as an inadvertent mistake by two fighter jets responding to a nearby US spy plane. Taipei described the latest incursion as a deliberate act. Presidential office spokesman Alex Huang called the flights “provocative and damaging the cross-straits status quo”.

The flights come a week after the US sailed a destroyer and a coastguard ship through the Taiwan Strait, angering Beijing. 

Although the straits are an international waterway China often hits out when US or other western navy ships pass through them.

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting unification, even though the two sides have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949. Washington diplomatically recognises China over Taiwan but remains the island’s chief military ally and arms supplier.