China regards the island republic as part of their territory. The government claimed that it was its largest incursion since January
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.
A Chinese Air Force Squadron approached Taiwanese-controlled Pratas Island, in the north part of 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.
Taipei also sent combat planes to the zone. It said that its missile defenses were activated, and it was monitoring any 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 is yet to comment. 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 “Only warning” to Taipei against its “Collaborative work” 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 considered a autonomous territory. It has been defacto ruled over by its own government ever since 1949. This was when the Chinese civil war lost side fled Taiwan and started its own administration. Beijing views Taiwanese authorities in a separatist fashion, insisting the territory is an inalienable Chinese part.
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.
Taipei’s authorities also stated that they will defend Taipei tooth and nail against any Chinese invasion.
Under the One-China principle, the vast majority of countries refrain from officially recognizing Taiwan’s independence.
But Taiwan enjoys a lot of diplomatic and military assistance from the US. The US maintains informal relations with Taiwan. Senior figures from Washington, Taipei, and other countries recently made statements that indicated they are planning to increase their ties.