Taiwan claims major Chinese war plane incursion
Taiwanese Air Force jets scrambled to intercept some 30 Chinese military aircraft as they entered the island’s air defense zone, the authorities in Taipei reported on Monday.
According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, 22 of those planes were fighter jets, with the rest made up of electronic warfare, early warning, and anti-submarine aircraft.
The Chinese Air Force squadron approached Taiwanese-controlled Pratas Island in the northern part of the South China Sea. Though situated around 450km (280 miles) away from Taiwan proper, the island and the waters surrounding it are part of the republic’s so-called Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), not to be confused with the republic’s narrower airspace.
As well as sending its combat jets to the area, Taipei said it had also activated its missile defenses, which monitored the incoming aircraft.
Taiwan’s military officials described the incursion as the largest of its kind since January 23, when 39 Chinese aircraft crossed into the ADIZ.
Beijing has yet to comment on the latest incident. Previously, the Chinese government has described similar episodes as drills aimed at protecting the country’s sovereignty.
Taiwan, which China considers to be part of its territory, has registered an uptick in the number of incursions conducted by Beijing’s air force and navy over the past two years. Taipei describes such actions as nothing short of “gray zone” warfare, apparently aimed to both wear out the island’s military as well as test its defenses.
Just last week, China announced that its military had carried out drills in the vicinity of Taiwan, describing them as a “solemn warning” to Taipei against its “collusion” with the US.
The statement came shortly after US President Joe Biden apparently suggested in Tokyo last week that Washington would send its military to defend the self-governed island should China attack it, in what would have been a major break from America’s long-standing policy of “strategic ambiguity.” However, top US officials, including Biden himself and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, later qualified the controversial remark, insisting that Washington had not departed from its previous position, which, among other things, includes respecting the so-called One-China principle.
Taiwan is a self-governing territory, which has been de facto ruled by its own government since 1949, when the losing side in the Chinese civil war fled to the island and set up its own administration there. Beijing considers the Taiwanese authorities to be separatists, insisting that the island is an inalienable part of China.
In recent years, top Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, have openly said that Beijing would not rule out the use of force to ensure the ‘reunification’ of Taiwan with the mainland.
The authorities in Taipei have similarly warned that they would defend the island tooth and nail in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Under the One-China principle, the vast majority of countries refrain from officially recognizing Taiwan’s independence.
Taiwan has, nevertheless, for years enjoyed extensive diplomatic and military support from the US, which maintains unofficial relations with the island. Recently, senior figures in Washington and Taipei have made several statements, indicating that the two countries have plans to deepen their ties.