On both Saturday and Sunday, Chinese warplanes encroached into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone. While there was an “uptick” in encroachments last year (380 to be exact), these were much larger – 13 and 15 warplanes at a time. Though China makes almost daily incursions in the area, these larger sorties were said to be highly unusual.
In both instances, Taiwan dispatched airborne alert aircraft, issued radio warnings and deployed air defense missile systems for tracking and surveillance, according to the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense.
Chinese warplanes encroach on air defense zone- what does this mean?
That was a noticeable uptick in the People’s Liberation Army’s typical air activity inside Taiwan’ air defense identification zone, which usually amounts to a handful of aircraft daily. These tend to be anti-submarine or intelligence-gathering aircraft based on the Shaanxi Y-9 turboprop airlifter. However, the Chinese aircraft from the weekend were mostly combat variants in the form of Xi’an H-6K bombers as well as Chengdu J-10, Shenyang J-16 and Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets…
…The U.S. State Department responded to China’s air activities in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, issuing a statement noting “with concern the pattern of ongoing [People’s Republic of China] PRC attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan.” It also urged “Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.”
Saturday also saw the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt enter the South China Sea via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines. A C-2A Greyhound cargo aircraft also appeared on online flight-tracking software, climbing from a point in the middle of the channel on Saturday, leading to suspicion that the carrier was entering the disputed waters. This was confirmed by a news release from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command the next day, which said the carrier and its strike group will be “conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units.”
The incoming Biden administration immediately ticked off China by stating that the US would continue to support Taiwan. It is unclear whether the large contingent of Chinese warplanes were meant as a signal to Biden to leave Taiwan alone, or a prescheduled exercise. If a prescheduled exercise, it was larger than normal.
The rhetoric out of CCP leader Xi Jinping over the last several months has been just one theme: telling his military to “prepare for war” (South China Morning Post). The US has been warning Taiwan of a possible invasion by China for several years. The small island is woefully out numbered, and the US sells them weapons about twice a year.
Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region. We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives. We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability.
Ned Price, State Department spokesman via Stripes
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