Taiwan's air force scrambled fighter jets to track two mainland PLA surveillance planes that intruded on the island's air defence zone, the island's military said yesterday.
One plane entered the air defence identification zone at 8.33am on Monday and another at 2.31pm the same day en route to a disputed area in the South China Sea, it said. Taiwan scrambled two fighter aircraft to track the planes.
A spokesman for the defence ministry in Beijing said People's Liberation Army aircraft conducted routine activities in the airspace on Monday, and nothing abnormal occurred.
Taiwan's United Daily News cited an unidentified military officer as saying that in the past PLA aircraft had detoured so as not to enter the Taiwanese zone. By entering it this time the PLA Air Force could test Taiwan's air surveillance capabilities and its reaction to intruders, the officer was quoted as saying.
Luo Shou-he, a spokesman for the island's Defence Ministry, said: "Right after their intrusions the air force first used radio to warn the intruding planes and then sent fighter jets to track them down in line with the standard operating procedure."
Luo said he did not think the incident would have an impact on the series of political negotiations that over the past few years had steadily improved ties between the mainland and Taiwan.
"What the air force did was the standard operating procedure that all other countries would do in responding to unidentified intruding planes. It has nothing to do with cross-strait relations."
Luo said this was not the first time a mainland aircraft had intruded into Taiwan's air defence identification zone and in previous cases the island's military had followed the same drill.
He added that the mainland aircraft only entered the edge of the island's air defence zone so it would not be an effective test of Taiwan's surveillance systems.
Tensions between Taiwan and the mainland have thawed since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, pledging to strengthen ties with Beijing.
Additional reporting by Teddy Ng