BEIJING (AP) — China's Air Force conducted training flights Thursday around the self-governing island of Taiwan that it said mark an "historical shift" in its combat ability.
A post on the Air Force's official microblog said multiple missions were launched from separate bases featuring aircraft including fighters, early warning planes and the H-6K long-range bomber.
The planes circled Taiwan, transiting the Bashi Strait to the south and Miyako Strait to the north along the sea border with Japan, it said.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Military threats have grown more prominent in recent weeks through war games and sharply worded statements from China seen as a response to what it perceives as the Taiwanese government's efforts to assert its de facto independent status.
The training flights aim to send a "clear and distinct" message to forces on the island promoting its formal independence, defense ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian told reporters at a monthly news briefing Thursday.
"It needs to be pointed out that Taiwan independence activities are doomed to failure and any attempt to use force to resist unification will go nowhere," Wu said.
Wu also repeated earlier statements that China was prepared to take further actions if Taiwan's government continued to "act however it likes" but gave no details.
China severed ties with Taiwan almost two years ago, after independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen refused its demand to recognize the island democracy as a part of Chinese territory.