Beijing deployed 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighters, four H-6K bombers, two Y-8 anti-sub warfare planes and one KJ-500 early warning aircraft into the southwest section of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone Monday, Taiwan’s ministry of national defence said in a statement.
The sortie was the largest China has sent toward Taiwan this year. The ministry said Taiwan’s air force responded by sending patrol aircraft to the area and tracking the Chinese planes with missile defence systems.
Chinese military activity has steadily picked up around Taiwan in recent months. The Chinese defence ministry said last week that the Liaoning aircraft carrier had carried out exercises near Taiwan recently and the navy is planning more more drills. The People’s Liberation Army also said last week that it monitored the USS John S. McCain destroyer as it sailed through the Taiwan Strait.
Washington and Beijing have been issuing warnings to each other regarding Taiwan since President Joe Biden took office in January, adding to tensions that increased steadily during the Trump administration. On Sunday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said China should avoid encroaching on Taiwan, saying Beijing was fomenting tensions in the strait with “aggressive actions.”
The US state department said in January that Washington had a “rock solid” commitment to Taipei after China flew more than a dozen military aircraft, including the H-6K bombers, into the strait. The bombers are believed to be capable of carrying land-attack cruise missiles.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi used an annual press briefing last month to warn the Biden administration to be careful in its dealings with Taipei. Wang said the US should stop “crossing lines and playing with fire,” and said there was “no room for compromise or concessions” in Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.
The Communist Party ruling China sees Taiwan as its territory, which must be seized by force if necessary. Taipei rejects the claim, saying Taiwan is already a de facto sovereign nation.