China stepped up its campaign of intimidation over Taiwan by sending a record number of fighter jets, including nuclear bombers, into its neighbour's airspace.
Beijing marked its National Day by flying a total of 38 military aircraft - its most in a single day - into the island's airspace on Friday, followed by a further 20 on Saturday.
It takes the number of incursions this year alone to 500, far outstripping the total of 380 for 2020.
It also comes days after the Royal Navy sailed through the Taiwan strait in a move seen as a challenge to Beijing's claim to the sensitive waterway.
Military build-up in the region has been accelerating as China has taken an increasingly aggressive stance on the South China Sea, much of which it claims as its own.
A new deal for the UK and US to supply Australia with nuclear submarines has also angered Beijing who told the trio to abandon their "cold war" mentality.
The latest move has been interpreted as a message to Taiwan and rival world powers.
Alexander Huang, associate professor at Tamkang University in Taipei, said: "There's three other carrier attack groups in the region, two American and one British.
"China is sending a political message to the US and UK on her national day: Don't mess around in my area."
Taiwan yesterday accused Beijing of bullying and damaging regional peace with the fighter jets.
"China has been wantonly engaged in military aggression, damaging regional peace," Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Saturday morning. "It's evident that the world, the international community, rejects such behaviours by China more and more."
President Xi Jinping has described Taiwan becoming part of mainland China as "inevitable". Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedom and democracy.
US military and intelligence officials have in recent months begun talking openly about fears of an invasion, which experts fear could draw in regional rivals and world powers.
The first batch of Chinese aircraft all flew in an area close to the Pratas Islands, with the two bombers flying closest to the atoll, according to a map issued by Taiwan's defence ministry.
The islands, which are controlled by Taiwan, could become a new flashpoint in the South China Sea due to their strategic significance. They hold the potential of functioning as a gatekeeper for China to observe American and British movements in the area.
The second group of aircraft flew down into the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, a key waterway that links the Pacific with the disputed South China Sea.
The 38 aircraft included nuclear-capable H-6 bombers.
On Saturday a further incident was reported by Taiwan's defence ministry. This time it comprised of 20 aircraft, which also flew in the vicinity of the Pratas.
China warned the UK, the US and Australia that they were kickstarting an "arms race" in the Pacific after they announced a broad security alliance in September.
The deal, dubbed AUKUS, is a landmark agreement to share military technologies and has been called a thinly veiled move to check China's increasing military capabilities.
China said the deal was "severely damaging regional peace and stability" and "damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts".
It is widely perceived as part of the US's pivot towards focusing its military power on China, something the country has claimed represents "outdated Cold War mentality".