| 26 February 2024, Monday |

Taiwan reports China’s largest incursion yet to air defense zone

The island’s administration announced the largest documented invasion to date on Monday: seventy-one Chinese air force aircraft, including fighter planes and drones, breached Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in the previous 24 hours.

According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, 43 of the aircraft also crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line, an unofficial barrier between the two sides that is located within the defense zone, as Beijing keeps up its military exercises near the island that it claims as its own.

The White House said the United States was concerned by China’s military activity near Taiwan, which it called “provocative” and “destabilizing,” adding that it risked miscalculations and undermined regional stability.

Taiwan’s official Central News Agency said it was the largest Chinese air force incursion to date, although there was no sense of alarm on the island, which has witnessed a steady increase in Chinese pressure in recent years.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, said it had conducted “strike drills” in the sea and airspace around Taiwan on Sunday in response to what it said was provocation from the democratically governed island and the United States.

Taiwan, which strongly rejects China’s sovereignty claims, said the drills showed Beijing was destroying regional peace and trying to intimidate Taiwan’s people.

A senior Taiwan official familiar with security planning in the region told Reuters that Taiwan assessed China had staged the military “provocation” to express anger at a new U.S. defense authorization law that boosts military assistance for Taiwan.

The person, who declined to be identified as the information was not made public, said during the drills China’s air force dispatched warplanes from several locations across the country to carry out simulated attacks on Taiwanese and U.S. warships.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The office of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Tsai will call a high-level national security meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss reinforcing the island’s civil defense system, followed by a press conference on new civil defense measures.

The statement gave no details, but the defense ministry has said it was considering extending compulsory military service beyond four months, as the war in Ukraine and rising tensions with Beijing renewed discussion about how to respond to Chinese military pressure.

“The more preparations we make, the less likely there will be rash attempts of aggression. The more united we are, the stronger and safer Taiwan would become,” Tsai told a military ceremony on Monday.

“We (U.S.) will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability in line with our long-standing commitments and consistent with our one China policy,” the White House National Security Council said on Monday.

During the latest incursion, several Chinese planes, mostly fighter jets, briefly crossed the median line in the sensitive Taiwan Strait before returning to China, according to a map provided by Taiwan’s defense ministry. Seven Chinese navy ships were also detected near Taiwan, the ministry said.

China’s military also sent early warning, electronic-warfare and antisubmarine aircraft, as well as drones, into Taiwan’s southern air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, according to the report, which detailed Chinese activities near Taiwan over the 24 hours to 6 a.m. (2200 GMT on Sunday).

Over the past two years, Taipei has complained about repeated operations by the Chinese air force, frequently in the southern regions of the ADIZ.

The government responded in the usual manner, saying Taiwan sent unnamed fighter aircraft to warn the Chinese planes off while missile systems watched their flight.

The leading stock index in Taiwan ignored the most recent tensions and finished the day Monday up 0.1%. With a 3.7% increase on Monday, China’s CSI Defense Index had its strongest day in two months.

In recent years, China has increased its diplomatic, military, and economic pressure on the autonomous island to submit to Beijing’s control. The government of Taiwan claims it seeks peace but will defend itself if attacked.

  • Reuters