A TB-001 drone was one of 19 military aircraft that had entered the Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in 24 hours.

A Chinese combat drone that state media says can carry a heavy weapons payload has flown around Taiwan, according to the island’s defense ministry.

The ministry said a TB-001 drone was one of 19 military aircraft that had entered the island’s air defense identification zone in 24 hours.

It flew around Taiwan, first crossing the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, then up the east of Taiwan before crossing back towards the Chinese coast.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regularly sends aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, but full circuits around the island are extremely rare.

Chinese state media has referred to the TB-001 as the “twin-tailed scorpion” and has shown pictures of it with missiles under its wings, saying it is capable of high-altitude, long-range missions.

China’s air force has flown what it calls “island encirclement” missions with the nuclear-capable H-6 bomber.

No shots were fired and Chinese aircraft have not flown in Taiwan’s airspace. The ADIZ, is a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols to give its forces more time to respond to threats.

China has increased military pressure on democratically governed Taiwan over the past three years as it tries to force Taipei to accept Beijing’s sovereignty claims. Taiwan’s government rejects being part of China and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

This month China staged war games around Taiwan after the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, met with Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the US House of Representatives, in Los Angeles.

The drills included deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group led by the Shandong, one of China’s two aircraft carriers. Japan’s defence ministry, which also monitors activity in the region, this week said the Shandong ran a record 620 fighter jet launches across 18 days in April.

Chinese military aircraft have since 2022 regularly crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which serves as an unofficial barrier between the two sides, though China says it does not recognise this.

Thursday’s sorties included fighter jets and reconnaissance aircraft, many of which crossed the media line. Taiwan’s defence ministry also detected six PLA ships, but did not give locations. It said defence aircraft, navy vessels, and land-based missile systems had been “tasked in response”, a usual reaction to the PLA’s ADIZ incursions.


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