The Chinese military sent 19 planes to Taiwan’s “air defense identification zone” on Sunday, including several nuclear-capable bombers, on the eve of the annual Taipei War Games drills.
The release of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force was one of the largest in weeks, and included 10 J-16 fighters and four Su-30s, as well as four H- bombers. 6, which can carry nuclear weapons, and an anti-submarine aircraft.
The planes flew a short distance from the Chinese coast to the southern tip of Taiwan, north of the disputed island of Pratas, and into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (Adiz). The area is not Taiwan’s territorial airspace, but the sorties prompt the Taiwan Air Force to bring in jets, and on Sunday missile surveillance systems were also deployed.
PLA flights to Taiwan have increased over the past 18 months, with periods of near-daily flights typically involving a small number of planes. The largest recorded was 28 planes sent in June. Planes were also sent beyond Taiwan and to the east coast of the island.
While activity has generally increased, large PLA incursions generally appear to be in response to particular events, for example US arms sales to Taiwan, or military activity in or near the Taiwan Strait.
It’s unclear what prompted the action on Sunday, but Taiwan’s annual full-scale live-fire drills are scheduled to begin next weekend, with rehearsal drills held on Monday. In recent weeks, military ships from the United States and the United Kingdom have also passed through the region, with an American warship and a United States Coast Guard crossing the Taiwan Strait.
The Taiwan Strait and the neighboring South China and East China Seas are geopolitically sensitive and the site of growing Chinese expansionist activity. Beijing regards Taiwan as a province of China by virtue of what it calls the “one-China principle” and has not ruled out the use of force to “unite” it. He considers the Taiwanese government led by Tsai Ing-wen to be separatist. The Tsai administration maintains that Taiwan is already an independent state.
There is growing speculation about the likelihood that Beijing, under Xi Jinping’s leadership, will decide to move to Taiwan. The potential circumstances and timing are hotly debated, but there is a general consensus that the risk is higher today than it has been for decades.
In a report to parliament last month, the Taiwanese defense ministry said China has the ability to “cripple” the island’s defenses, including through cyber attacks, Reuters reported.
China “may join forces with its Internet army to launch wired and wireless attacks against the global Internet, which would initially cripple our air defenses, sea command and counterattack system capabilities, presenting a huge threat to us, ”according to the ministry report. .
As China isolates itself further on the world stage, modernizes its military and expands its activities in border and contested regions, tensions have grown between its government and Taiwan and its supporters. The United States maintains a policy that neither guarantees nor excludes defending Taiwan in the event of an attack, but under President Donald Trump, the United States has increased its arms sales to Taiwan and the Biden administration has reaffirmed his support.
Japan is also increasingly expressing its concerns over the Chinese threat. Its deputy prime minister noted in July that an attack on Taiwan could be seen as an existential threat to Japan – which would trigger constitutional clearances for the country to engage militarily. Under a 2015 reinterpretation of its post-war pacifist constitution, Japan says it can use force to aid an ally, arguing that failure to do so could endanger Japan .