Taiwan activated its missile systems and sent fighter jets into its skies after Chinese aircraft swarmed towards the democratic nation.

It’s the latest in a series of provocative moves by Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory despite it never having been under Communist rule.

Taiwan offers an alternative version of a China that is Western aligned with multi-party elections.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to take control of the island country of 24 million, by force if necessary.

A US general said in recent days that a conflict over Taiwan could come as soon as 2025.

Taiwan’s ministry of defence stated that 34 People’s Liberation Army aircraft and nine PLA naval vessels crossed the median line in the waters between China and Taiwan in the 24 hours between 6am January 31 and 6am February 1 local time (9am to 9am AEDT).

The median line is an unofficial maritime border between the two countries. However, Beijing has, with increasing regularity, breached the demarcation. PLA aircraft have done so several times in 2023 already.

While Beijing doesn’t recognise any boundary between it and Taiwan, the various aircraft turned back to China relatively quickly after crossing the line and did not enter Taiwan’s national airspace.

“Armed Forces have monitored the situation and tasked (combat air patrol) aircraft, navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to respond these activities,” the ministry stated on social media.

Taiwan used to be a region of China under Beijing’s control. However when Communist rule was established on the mainland in 1949 the previous Nationalist Government fled to Taiwan and it has remained out of reach to Beijing since.

There are fears China is gearing up for a blockade or even an invasion of Taiwan to bring it under communist rule.

US Air Force General Mike Minihan said last month it was possible such a move could happen within the next two years. That in turn could lead to direct conflict between China and the US.

“I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” he said in an internal memo.

Laying out his reasoning, Gen Minihan said Taiwan’s presidential elections next year would offer Chinese President Xi Jinping an excuse for military aggression, while the United States would be distracted by its own contest for the White House.

The US and Taiwan are allies with much of the world’s advanced semiconductors being produced on the island.

While the US has no obligation to defend Taiwan from invasion, US President Joe Biden has repeatedly signalled that Washington DC would intervene militarily.

An analysis by think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies suggested China would lose a Taiwan conflict, if the US intervened, but each side would suffer “enormous losses”.

On a visit to Tokyo this week the secretary-general of the NATO military alliance Jens Stoltenberg said a similar situation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could happen in East Asia.

“We must remain united and firm, standing together for freedom and democracy,” he said.

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Mr Stoltenberg said he was worried by the increasing co-operation between China and Russia in Asia.

China was “not our adversary,” he said, but warned of its growing military presence in Asia “including nuclear weapons, bullying neighbours and threatening Taiwan”.

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