Taiwan sends fighter jets to air space dispute with China

By Ewan Chen, CNN • Updated 13th May 2015

Authorities in Taiwan sent fighter jets after 27 Chinese planes flew in the disputed airspace near the island on Tuesday, but there were no reports of an immediate clash.

F-16 aircraft from Taiwan’s military flew off to confront the planes after a training mission near the Kunming airbase, north of Taipei, according to a Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman.

A Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesperson said there were no “wild dragon” warnings issued to China, as some Taiwanese news reports had speculated.

A “wild dragon” warning is a Chinese regional alert that might escalate into a physical clash.

Some flights were halted and all of the 28 aircraft in China’s “airport zone” were turned back, Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

Rising tensions

The foreign ministry of China’s southern Sichuan province echoed that the Chinese planes’ low altitude and low flying hours showed they were actually training.

“The aircraft were not unarmed and were exercising,” the ministry said.

The incident is just the latest in a long history of diplomatic spats, where China is looking to bolster its diplomatic and military reach.

Tension has been heightened by a power transfer in Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou’s four-year term coming to an end in May.

Planes have also contested airspace in the past

In 2012, Taiwan scrambled F-16s as Chinese jets flew within minutes of each other after landing on the island in what was China’s first direct flight in the disputed Taiwan Strait.

And in 2011, China and Taiwan traded fire, with Taiwan’s president warning of “war” and vowing to send ballistic missiles to attack China, in response to the country’s dispatch of a surveillance ship in the air near the island.

The flying of jets across the Taiwan Strait separates Taiwan from the mainland of China. The Chinese call it the “Air Defence Identification Zone” (ADIZ) and call the territory claimed by Taiwan the “East China Sea” or “South China Sea”

CNN’s Andy Wong and Max Foster contributed to this report.

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