TAIPEI (Reuters) – At least one Chinese Air Force Yun-8 transport plane conducted a long-haul flight near Taiwan on Sunday, the island’s Defence Ministry said, amid simmering tensions between the two rivals.
Taiwan dispatched its aircraft and ships to “monitor and deal with” the Yun8, which returned to its base after flying through the Bashi Channel and Miyako waterway, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said. It was unclear whether one plane or more made the flight.
There was no untoward incident and the public should not be alarmed, Feng said. He did not give further details.
China has considered Taiwan to be a wayward province since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops fled to the island in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist forces on the mainland.
Beijing suspects Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party wants to declare the island’s formal independence. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China but will defend the island’s security.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled democratic island under its control.
China has conducted numerous similar patrols near Taiwan this year, saying such practices have been normalised as it presses ahead with a military modernisation programme that includes building aircraft carriers and stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores.
In September, the U.S. Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2018 fiscal year, which authorises mutual visits by navy vessels between Taiwan and the United States.
That prompted a senior Chinese diplomat to say this month China would invade the island if any U.S. warships made port visits there.
(Reporting by Fabian Hamacher, writing by Benjamin Kang Lim, editing by Larry King)