Taiwan scrambled jets to warn away 29 Chinese aircraft in its air defence zone, including bombers that flew south of the island and into the Pacific, in the latest uptick in tensions and largest incursion since late May.
Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory despite never being ruled by China in 70 years, has complained in recent years of repeated incursions by the Chinese air force near the democratically governed island, often in the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone, or ADIZ.
Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “grey zone” warfare, designed to wear out Taiwanese forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwanese response to military incursions.
The latest Chinese mission on Tuesday, June 21 included 17 fighters and six H-6 bombers, as well as electronic warfare, early warning, antisubmarine and aerial refuelling aircraft, Taiwan’s defence ministry said.
The bombers, accompanied by an electronic warfare and an intelligence gathering aircraft, flew into the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from the Philippines and into the Pacific, before turning back to China on the same route.
Taiwan sent combat aircraft to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems monitored them, the ministry said.
It was the largest incursion since Taiwan reported 30 Chinese aircraft in its ADIZ on May 30. The largest to date this year occurred on Jan. 23, involving 39 aircraft.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Wednesday the large-scale exercise by the Chinese military showed China’s military threat is “more serious than ever”.
“But there’s no way #Taiwan will cave in & surrender its sovereignty & democracy to the big bully. Not a chance!,” Wu said on Twitter.
China’s military said last month it had conducted an exercise around Taiwan as a “solemn warning” against its “collusion” with the United States.
Last month U.S. President Joe Biden angered China by saying the United States would get involved militarily if China were to attack the island.