BEIJING / TAIPEI (Reuters) – Chinese aircraft have again flown around Taiwan's self-ruled air force on Thursday called a "Sacred Mission", as Taiwan denounced its big neighbor over what it called a policy of military intimidation.
Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, is one of China's most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.
China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island.
More recently, China Prime Minister William Lai said he was in Taiwan, but Taipei says Lai's position remains that between Taiwan and the mainland.
In a statement on its microblog, the Chinese air force said H-6K bombers had "recently" flown a patrol around Taiwan.
"The motherland is in our hearts, and the jeweled island is in the bosom of the motherland," at H-6K captain, Zhai Peisong, quoted as saying in the statement, using another name for Taiwan.
"Defending the beautiful rivers and mountains of the motherland is the sacred mission of air force pilots."
Taiwan's Defense Ministry said two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island on Wednesday afternoon, passing first through the Miyako Strait, to Taiwan's northeast, then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
Late on Wednesday, Chinese state media said the pilot had been airborne with his helicopters during his visit to Taiwan Flagged in state media.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the island's independence separatist activities were the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
"No force and no person should underestimate our resolute resolve and defend the nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the office said.
'Determination to defend'
Taiwan's China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said China's military exercise – which it described as routine and small scale – as well as the Chinese air force fly-by, to "military intimidation ".
"Our determination to defend the country's sovereign dignity will never give in to any threat or force of force," it said.
China has said the fire-fighting drills would take place on Wednesday in the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China's coast but which Taiwan has controlled since 1949, when defeated nationalist forces fled to the island at the end was of the Chinese civil.
Chinese state media said they were "directing themselves to provocations" by Taiwan leaders.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the Taiwanese separatist movement is now in a state of isolation.
China's hostility towards Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won a presidential election on the island in 2016.
China fears she wants to push for independence. Tsai says she is committed to peacekeeping and maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, but wants to defend Taiwan's security.
Setting aside the tension with China, Tsai began a visit to the southern African nation of Swaziland on Wednesday, one of only 20 countries to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.