TAIPEI: China deployed 71 warplanes in weekend military exercises around Taiwan, Taipei’s defense ministry said Monday, including dozens of fighter jets in one of the biggest daily incursions to date.
The People’s Liberation Army said it had conducted a “strike drill” on Sunday in response to unspecified “provocations” and “collusion” between the United States and the self-ruled island.
Data from Taiwan’s defense ministry showed those drills were one of the largest since they started releasing daily tallies.
In a post on Twitter, Taiwan said 60 fighter jets took part in the drills, including six Su-30 warplanes, some of China’s most advanced.
Moreover, 47 of the sorties crossed into the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), the third-highest daily incursion on record, according to AFP’s database.
Chiu Tai-san, head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s top China policy-making body, expressed “strong dissatisfaction” at the latest incursions during a parliament session on Monday.
Taiwan lives under constant threat of invasion by China, which claims the democratic island as part of its territory, to be taken one day.
Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan under President Xi Jinping as relations have deteriorated.
One of the pressure tactics China has increasingly used is probing Taiwan’s ADIZ with its warplanes.
According to an AFP database, there have been more than 1,700 such incursions so far this year, compared with 969 in 2021. Taiwan’s defense ministry said it recorded around 380 incursions in 2020.
China did not specify the number of aircraft mobilized for Sunday’s exercises, nor the exact location of the maneuvers.
Taiwan’s daily tally showed most of the incursions crossed the “median line” which runs down the Taiwan Strait separating the two sides, while smaller number went through Taiwan’s southwestern ADIZ.
Record bomber incursion
Many nations maintain air defense identification zones, including the United States, Canada, South Korea, Japan and China.
They are not the same as a country’s airspace.
Instead, they encompass a much wider area, in which any foreign aircraft is expected to announce itself to local aviation authorities.
Taiwan’s ADIZ is much larger than its airspace. It overlaps part of China’s ADIZ and even includes some of the mainland.
The PLA said Sunday’s exercises were “a firm response to the escalating collusion and provocations by the US and the Taiwanese authorities”.
Beijing has been incensed by US President Joe Biden’s handling of Taiwan — especially after he said Washington would defend it militarily if attacked by China.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Sunday that cooperation between Taipei and Washington would “help (maintain) freedom, openness, peace and stability” in the Indo-Pacific region.
The prospect of a Chinese invasion has increasingly rattled both Western nations and many of China’s neighbors.
Xi, China’s most authoritarian leader in decades, has said that the process of what he calls the “reunification” of Taiwan cannot be passed on to future generations.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also heightened fears China might try something similar.
The United States has stepped up support for Taiwan including a bill this month that authorized $10 billion in military aid, to which Beijing expressed “strong opposition”.
Tensions peaked in August during US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, with the PLA staging huge military drills around the island in protest.
Military flights into the ADIZ are seen as a way to both wear down Taiwan’s ageing fleet of fighters as well as probe its defensive responses.
There has also been an increase in sorties by China’s nuclear-capable H-6 bombers.
China this month sent a record 18 H-6 bombers into the southwestern ADIZ in the largest daily incursion to date.