Taiwan has reported a weekend of large incursions by Chinese warplanes in a show of force that coincides with the first days of US President Joe Biden’s term of office.
Sunday’s intrusion was carried out by 12 fighters, two anti-submarine aircraft and a reconnaissance plane, Taiwan’s defence ministry said.
On Saturday, a foray by eight Chinese bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, four fighter jets and one anti-submarine aircraft led to a warning from Washington.
On both occasions, Taiwan’s air force warned away the aircraft and deployed missiles to monitor them, according to the ministry.
Chinese warplanes have carried out regular flights in recent months but they are usually conducted by reconnaissance or anti-submarine warfare aircraft, according to Taiwan.
Analysts say the stepped-up numbers show China is testing the level of Biden’s support for Taiwan.
The drills come days after the inauguration of Biden which was attended by the island’s de facto ambassador to the US, Hsiao Bi-khim, in another sign of the new administration’s support for Taiwan.
Biden is expected to maintain pressure on China over a wide range of issues including human rights, trade disputes, Hong Kong and Taiwan, reports the BBC.
The Trump administration established closer ties with Taipei, ramping up arms sales despite fierce warnings from China. Days before he left office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lifted long-standing restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials.
Lo Chih-cheng, a senior Taiwan lawmaker told the Reuters news agency that Beijing’s moves were an attempt to deter the new US government from backing the island. “It’s sending a message to the Biden administration.”
There has been no official comment from the Chinese government.