A Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet and a Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane manned by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) were seen flying over the channel Tuesday.
"[The aircraft came] from the southern part of the Chinese mainland, and flew through the Bashi Channel and then… to the western Pacific," Taiwan's defense ministry announced Tuesday, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. The ministry also reassured the people of Taiwan not to panic over the Chinese aircraft.
"The Taiwanese military sent aircraft and surveillance ships in response… to ensure the safety of national airspace and sea areas," the ministry continued, adding that "after the long-distance drill, the [PLA] aircraft returned to base."
Last Thursday, Taiwan held live-fire drills in order to enhance combat readiness, starting off a number of combat exercises scheduled for 2019 that Taiwan Major General Yeh Kuo-hui announced earlier this month are meant to defend "against a possible Chinese invasion," the Diplomat reported.
The PLA Navy and Air Force have been conducting patrols near Taiwanese waters and airspace ever since pro-independence Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016.
Relations between mainland China and Taiwan have been tense since 1949. China considers self-governing Taiwan part of its territory and claims sovereignty over it. Taiwan, by comparison, still bears the name of the pre-communist-era government, the Republic of China, whose territorial control was confined to the island at the conclusion of the civil war in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established in Beijing on the mainland.
The latest drill by the PLA comes just a few days after the US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said that the US Navy will not rule out sending aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Strait, a 180-kilometer-wide strait separating the island of Taiwan from mainland China.
"We don't see really any kind of limitation on whatever type of ships could pass those waters," the US Navy official noted, after Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated earlier this month that Beijing would not rule out the use of force in territories Beijing claims to control in the Taiwan Strait, Sputnik previously reported.
"We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means," Xi said earlier this month.
On January 4, President Tsai appealed to the international community for support to protect the self-ruled island's democracy.
"We hope that the international community takes it seriously and can voice support and help us," Tsai told reporters in Taipei, a few days after Xi made comments that Taiwan was a part of China and that both sides should aim for "reunification," Reuters reported.