China’s military sent 28 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone Tuesday — the largest-known incursion to date — just days after Group of Seven nations urged “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”
The massive show of force came after a relative lull in the number of Chinese sorties into the ADIZ and bested the previous record, 25 warplanes, that was reported on April 12. The latest mission included 14 J-16 and six J-11 fighter jets and four H-6 heavy bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, as well as various surveillance and early warning aircraft, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said that Taiwanese aircraft were dispatched to warn away the Chinese warplanes, while missile systems were also deployed to monitor them.
In the joint communique released Sunday after their summit in England, G7 nations addressed the soaring tensions in the area for the first time, underscoring “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and taking China to task over a number of other concerns.
The move also came as the Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group entered the disputed South China Sea for what the U.S. Navy termed a “routine mission.”
28 PLA aircraft (Y-8 ASW, H-6*4, Y-8 EW, KJ-500 AEW&C*2, J-16*14 and J-11*6) entered #Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ on June. 15, 2021. Please check our official website for more information: https://t.co/JnfN8bOwgl pic.twitter.com/MBJv2jbNMZ
— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C. 🇹🇼 (@MoNDefense) June 15, 2021
According to a map of Tuesday’s incursion released by Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, the bombers and a number of the fighters skirted the southern part of the island by the Bashi Channel — a key entryway from the western Pacific into the South China Sea that the Reagan strike group was believed to have traversed to enter the contested waterway.
The sortie could be similar to exercises by the Chinese military in late January that reportedly simulated a strike on a U.S. aircraft carrier operating in the South China Sea. The Chinese military is also believed to be using the drills to practice “access denial” maneuvers that could prevent foreign forces from coming to Taiwan’s defense in a conflict.
A Pentagon spokesman told The Japan Times that China’s “increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation.”
“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region. In response to the growing PRC threat, we will continue deepening our unofficial security relationship to ensure Taiwan has sufficient capabilities to defend itself,” spokesman John Supple added, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The growing rancor and competition between China and the U.S. have stoked fears that a full-scale conflict could break out — with Taiwan caught in the middle, or being the cause of a conflagration itself.
Beijing views Taiwan as an inherent part of its territory and sees it as a renegade province that must be brought back into the fold — by force if necessary.
Washington, which switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979, considers the self-ruled island a key partner and crucial line of defense as the Chinese military continues to push further into the western Pacific.
Although it no longer formally recognizes Taiwan, the United States is required by law to provide Taipei with the means to defend itself, according to the Taiwan Relations Act.
In recent months, Chinese warplanes and vessels have routinely conducted operations in the vicinity of Taiwan, stoking fears of possible preparations for invasion.
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