TAIPEI: China deployed 71 warplanes in weekend military exercises around Taiwan, Taipei’s Defense Ministry said on Monday, including dozens of fighter jets in one of the biggest daily incursions to date.
China’s military, formally called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), 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 that those drills were one of the largest since they started releasing daily tallies.
In a Twitter post, 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 Agence France-Presse’s (AFP) database.
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Taiwan lives under constant threat of invasion by China, which claims the democratic island as part of its territory, to be seized one day if needed.
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.
So far this year, there have been more than 1,700 such incursions, compared with 969 in 2021 and 146 in 2020.
China did not specify the number of aircraft mobilized for Sunday’s exercises, nor the exact location of these maneuvers.
Taiwan’s daily tally showed most of the incursions crossed the “median line,” which runs down the Taiwan Strait that separates the two sides, while a smaller number went through Taiwan’s southwestern ADIZ.
Many nations maintain ADIZs, 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.
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 made clear what he calls the “reunification” of Taiwan cannot be passed on to future generations.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also heightened fears that China might try something similar.
The US has stepped up support for Taiwan, including a bill approved this month that authorized $10 billion in military aid, to which Beijing expressed “strong opposition.”
Tensions peaked in early 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 aging 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.