Some 28 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone on Tuesday, said its defence ministry, the largest reported incursion so far.
Fighters and nuclear-capable bombers were among those in the so-called air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
The incident comes after Nato leaders on Monday warned of the military challenge posed by China.
While democratic Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign state, Beijing views the island as a breakaway province.
According to Taipei, the Chinese mission included 14 J-16, six J-11 fighters, four nuclear capable H-6 bombers as well as anti-submarine, electronic warfare and early warning aircraft.
An air defence identification zone is an area outside of a country’s territory and national airspace but where foreign aircraft are still identified, monitored, and controlled in the interest of national security. It is self-declared and technically remains international airspace.
The Chinese aircraft flew close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, as well as around the southern part of Taiwan itself.
China has over recent months regularly carried out flights over the waters between the southern part of Taiwan and the Pratas Islands.
On 24 January, a similar mission saw 15 aircraft entering Taiwan’s air defence zone while on 12 April, Taiwan reported 25 jets.
Tuesday’s operation came just one day after Nato leaders at a summit in Brussels warned of the military threat posed by China, calling its behaviour a “systemic challenge”.
China, they said, was rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, was “opaque” about its military modernisation and was co-operating militarily with Russia.
Over the weekend, G7 leaders urged China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms”, highlighting abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority group and the crackdown on Hong Kong pro-democracy activists.
Both statements were strongly criticised and dismissed by China.
China and Taiwan: The basics
- China and Taiwan have had separate governments since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Beijing has long tried to limit Taiwan’s international activities and both have vied for influence in the Pacific region
- Tensions have increased in recent years and Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to take the island back
- Although Taiwan is officially recognised by only a handful of nations, its democratically elected government has strong commercial and informal links with many countries
- Like most nations, the US has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but a US law does require it to provide the island with the means to defend itself