China has again sought to flex its military muscle as fears over heated conflict in the Taiwan Strait continue to simmer.
The country's new provocation is simply the latest in a long line of agitating military actions designed to test the resolve of its next target: the democratic island of Taiwan.
Taiwan's air force scrambled against renewed Chinese military activity in its official defence identification zone on Sunday, the country has revealed.
The defence ministry says 19 aircraft including nuclear-capable bombers flew into its air defence zone unauthorised.
Taiwan, which China claims, has complained for a year or more of repeated missions by China's air force near the self-ruled island, often near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
The latest Chinese incursion involved 10 J-16 and four Su-30 fighters, as well as four H-6 bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, and an anti-submarine aircraft, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said.
Taiwanese combat aircraft were dispatched to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them, the ministry said.
The Chinese aircraft flew in an area closer to the Chinese than Taiwanese coast, roughly northeast of the Pratas, according to a map provided by Taiwan's defence ministry.
The last such large-scale activity, on June 15, involved 28 Chinese air force aircraft, the largest incursion reported by Taiwan to date.
China often mounts such missions to express displeasure at something Taiwan has done or at shows of international support for the democratically ruled island, especially by the United States, Taiwan's main arms provider.
It is not clear what's behind China's most recent provocation but it came on the eve of Taipei’s annual war games exercises.
It also comes shortly after a US warship and a US Coast Guard cutter sailed through the Taiwan Strait late last month – something that rankles China which routinely bemoans what it calls "collusion" between Taipei and Washington.
Taiwan warns of 'huge' new military threat from China
Taiwan's defence ministry warned last week that the threat from China was growing, saying China's armed forces can "paralyse" Taiwan's defences and are able to fully monitor its deployments.
In its annual report to parliament on China's military, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, Taiwan's Defence Ministry presented a far graver view than it did last year, when the report said China still lacked the capability to launch a full assault on Taiwan.
This year's report said that China can launch what it termed "soft and hard electronic attacks", including blocking communications across the western part of the first island chain, the string of islands that run from the Japanese archipelago, through Taiwan and down to the Philippines.
China "can combine with its internet army to launch wired and wireless attacks against the global internet, which would initially paralyse our air defences, command of the sea and counter-attack system abilities, presenting a huge threat to us".
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