Nineteen Chinese planes have entered Taiwan’s airspace, raising tensions in the region in the wake of the AUKUS submarine pact.
Taipei said 14 fighters – including 12 J-16s and two J-11s – entered the air defense identification zone on Thursday morning.
The fighters included two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, a Y-8 aircraft equipped with “electronic warfare” equipment and two Y-8 anti-submarine planes, the country’s defense ministry said.
Jets were used to turn the plane back, while radio alerts were also broadcast and missile defense systems were activated to monitor the situation.
China regularly flies such missions, but they have taken on new meaning in the wake of the AUKUS deal.
Taiwan is a close ally of the US, meaning the UK and Australia could now be dragged into a future conflict with China because of the defense pact.
China has flown 19 planes into Taiwan’s skies, including 14 fighters and two nuclear bombers in one of the largest flights in months
Two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers participated in the sortie, flying south of the island of Taiwan before turning around and returning to China (file image)
Flight tracking data published by Taiwan showed that the J-16 and J-11 fighters flew a short distance into the ADIZ before returning.
Meanwhile, the bombers, electronic warplanes and anti-submarine planes completed a circuit around the southern tip of Taiwan before returning.
The island’s government has spent a year complaining about repeated Chinese Air Force missions near its borders, often in the southwestern part of the air defense zone near Taiwan-controlled Pratas Island.
China has flown planes into Taiwan’s defense zone every day this month with the exception of Sept. 2, Defense Ministry data shows.
Most missions involve only a handful of aircraft, making Thursday’s outage exceptional due to its size.
Only two similar missions have taken place in recent months, with one on September 5 with 19 aircraft and one on June 15 with 28.
Self-governing Taiwan, home to the Republic of China that fought the Communist Party when it first emerged, considers itself an independent state, but Beijing considers it a breakaway province.
It has longstanding ties to the US, which historically recognized it as the legitimate government of China.
Tensions around the island have been mounting since President Xi Jinping pledged in 2019 to “reunite” Taiwan with mainland China, using force if necessary.
Twelve J-16s (pictured) and two J-11 fighters also took part in the mission, which was one of the largest flown in recent months
The deadlock entered a new phase last week when Australia, the UK and the US announced a new defense pact to share military technology, including giving Australia its first fleet of nuclear submarines.
Beijing reacted angrily to the deal, denouncing the Allies’ “Cold War mentality” while warning it jeopardized stability in the region and could make Australia the target of a nuclear attack.
Shortly after the alliance was announced, Australian Defense Secretary Peter Dutton admitted that war with China is possible – with Taiwan likely the flashpoint.
The deal is about securing “peace” in the region, Dutton insisted, but added that the potential for a conflict with China “must not be discounted.”
“The Chinese… are very clear of their intentions regarding Taiwan” [and] the United States has been very clear about its intentions with Taiwan,” he said.
“Nobody wants to see conflict, but that’s really a question for the Chinese.”
The incident came a day after Taiwan proposed spending $9 billion in additional defense spending over the next five years, including on new missiles, and warned of an urgent need to upgrade weapons in the face of a “serious crisis.” threat from China.
Earlier on Friday, Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang said the government should take the threat from China seriously.
“The Chinese communists are constantly plotting against us,” he said.
Taiwan’s defense spending is based on safeguarding national sovereignty, national security and national security. We shouldn’t relax. We must make the best preparations so that there is no war,” he added.
The Chinese government, for its part, criticized Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Friday for comments this week in which he said Taiwan was a “sea fortress” blocking China’s expansion into the Pacific.
Wu’s “purpose is to mislead public opinion, intervene and collude with anti-Chinese foreign forces,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Bureau said in a statement.