The US Air Force has sent two B-52 strategic bombers and one MC-130J Commando II refuelling tanker jet to the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence reported. According to the ministry, the jets were "closely monitored" for the duration of their flight. The US Air Force is yet to confirm the information.
The reported flight took place after days of Chinese military drills that were held, among other places, in the strait separating mainland China from Taiwan. PLA jets, bombers, destroyers, and frigates passed through the strait as part of the drills on 9 February. Another round of joint exercises between the PLA Air Force and Navy occurred on 10 February in the waters of the Taiwan Strait.
"The Chinese military’s combat-ready patrol is completely legitimate and is the necessary action taken to address the current security situation across the Taiwan Strait and safeguard China’s sovereignty", the Chinese Defence Ministry said.
While Taiwan enjoys de facto autonomy, mainland China considers it to be a breakaway region. The US officially considers the Taiwan issue unresolved and has developed ties with the island, supplying it with weaponry despite protests from Beijing.
This is not the first time that the US has sent forces to the Taiwan Strait or other disputed regions claimed by China. Namely, Washington routinely sends ships to the South China Sea under the pretext of freedom of navigation operations, despite Beijing's demands for the US to stop such "provocations".