Taiwanese officials say that "China is using external problems to relieve domestic pressure" with its increase in patrols over Taiwan. Credit: Lockheed Martin file photo.

Chinese fighter jets appear to be getting bolder as they patrol the fringes of Taiwan.

A report has surfaced that on at least once occasion, a Chinese warplane locked its radar onto a Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet, Taiwan News reported.

As the Wuhan coronavirus rages in China, the communist country has stepped up aggressive air force missions near and around Taiwan to intimidate “separatist forces” and distract attention from the epidemic, officials said.

These flights have consisted of Shengyang J-11 fighter jets, Xi’an H-6 strategic bombers, and Shaanxi KJ-500 early warning and control aircraft and have been met with Taiwanese F-16 fighter jets on at least two occasions, the report said.

On Jan. 23, several Chinese fighter jets, Xi’an H-6 bombers, and KJ-500 early warning aircraft flew over the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan, the report said.

On Feb. 9, China sent out Shenyang J-11 fighter jets, at least four Xian H-6 jet bombers, and a KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft at around 11 a.m, and the planes flew through the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait — off the east coast of Taiwan — before returning to base, the report said.

The ministry also released a photo of one of Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets, armed with at least one missile, flying close to the Chinese jet bomber for monitoring, the report said.

The ministry stressed that the military would take full control of any situation and respond accordingly to ensure the nation’s sovereignty and protect the lives and property of the Taiwanese people.

People’s Liberation Army publication China Military on Feb. 10 quoted military spokesperson Zhang Chunhui as claiming that “separatist forces” in Taiwan were conspiring to push for the island’s independence and that their schemes would “not win the heart of the people.”

Rounding out the jingoistic rhetoric, he said the military remained on high guard and would fulfill its duties with resolution.

That same day, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed that Beijing had sent military aircraft, including a Xian H-6 bomber, to the Western Pacific off the east coast of Taiwan via the Bashi Channel for an exercise, the report said.

One bomber briefly crossed the “middle line” in the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial airspace boundary once respected by both sides, but was intercepted and expelled by Taiwanese F-16 fighters, added the ministry.

Most recently, as Taiwan observed a public holiday, a Xi’an H-6 bomber flew close to the island’s southwest coast Friday afternoon (Feb. 28), according to the Ministry of National Defense.

Two sources familiar with the matter said that in one case, a Chinese warplane “locked onto one of the Taiwan aircraft.”

Radar lock-on indicates that a target has been acquired by the warplane’s missile guidance system and precedes the firing of a missile — a provocative air combat action.

One squeeze of the trigger, and the target is blown to pieces.

Wang Ting-yu, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and member of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, said that “Xi Jinping is trying to make the point that he is still in control of the military.”

He added that “China is using external problems to relieve domestic pressure.”