China has sent military jets to Taiwan (Image: EXPRESS)
In response, Tawain has scrambled fighter jets after multiple Chinese aircraft were spotted buzzing around the island, including crossing the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, in an escalation of tensions. China's Defence Ministry announced the start of combat drillsnear the Taiwan Strait this morning, denouncing what it called collusion between the Chinese-claimed island and the US.
US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades.
Beijing has watched with growing alarm the ever-closer relationship between Taipei and Washington, and has stepped up military exercises near the island, including two days of mass air and sea drills last week.
Taiwan's defence ministry said 18 Chinese aircraft were involved on Friday, a far larger number than Taiwan has previously announced for such encounters.
The ministry said in an English-language statement on Twitter: "Sep. 18, two H-6 bombers, eight J-16 fighters, four J-10 fighters and four J-11 fighters crossed the midline of the TaiwanStrait and entered Taiwan's southwest ADIZ.
"ROCAF scrambled fighters, and deployed air defence missile system to monitor the activities."
The ministry showed a map of the flight paths of the Chinese jets and their crossing of the Taiwan Strait mid-line, which normally combat aircraft from both sides avoid passing through.
Taiwan's Liberty Times newspaper said Taiwan air force jets scrambled 17 times on Friday morning over four hours, warning China's air force to stay away.
It also showed a picture of missiles being loaded onto an F-16 at the Hualien air base on Taiwan's east coast.
In Beijing, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Friday's drills, about which he gave no