Chinese warplanes simulated missile strikes on a nearby US aircraft carrier during an apparent incursion into the southwestern zone of Taiwan's air defences last Sunday, the Financial Times cited unnamed intelligence sources as saying.
The sources claimed that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) sent 11 aircraft there on 23 January, and 15 more warplanes to the area the next day.
The warplanes reportedly included bombers and fighter jets that conducted a drill that used a US aircraft carrier strike group in the same area as a simulated target.
Last Sunday, the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) announced that "the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) had entered the South China Sea on 23 January to conduct routine operations".
Washington has routinely been sending its warships to the South China Sea, whose waters are disputed by five states but which are mostly controlled by Beijing.
The Sunday drills came a few weeks after China rejected Taiwan's latest offer of talks, accusing Taipei of seeking confrontation with Beijing amid the island's drive for independence.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement earlier this month that since 2016, the island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) "has continued to provoke by seeking independence, confronting the mainland at every turn, and deliberately creating confrontation across the Taiwan Strait".
The statement came hours after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen stressed that Taipei is ready to conduct "meaningful" talks with Beijing on an equal basis if the Chinese authorities indicate a willingness to put aside what Tsai described as confrontation.
In May 2020, Tsai said that Taiwan wants dialogue with China but that it cannot accept its proposal for "one country, two systems".
Tsai's latest remarks were made amid ongoing bilateral tensions sparked by China building up its military activities near the island, including regular flyovers by Chinese military warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
Last year, China conducted military exercises near the Taiwan Strait, which Beijing said were aimed at protecting the country's territorial integrity following US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach's visit to Taiwan on 17 September.
Officially, the US follows the One-China policy, which does not recognise Taiwan as an independent entity, even though Washington has trade and business ties with the island and supplies weapons to it.
China, in turn, sees Taiwan as part of its own territory, cutting off a mechanism on formal bilateral talks back in 2016, when Taiwanese President Tsai was elected.