On Monday, Taiwan’s defence ministry issued a warning against what it termed China’s “destructive” harassment as Beijing launched a record number of military aircraft towards the self-governed, democratic island of Taiwan. On April 10, China had 91 military aircraft in the air near Taiwan, setting a new day record.
Taiwan said that in the 24 hours before Monday morning, 103 PLA aircraft were identified entering its air defence identification zone. Not a single one flew into Taiwan.
Forty planes were counted as having flown through the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which served as a de facto border between the two sides at one time. Hundreds more further Chinese aircraft departed from Taiwan’s southern tip and curved north along the island’s eastern coast before disappearing out of sight over the Pacific.
Since 2019, China has increased the frequency of its military flights near Taiwan. Especially at tense times involving Taiwan’s high-level interactions with the United States, the island’s most significant political and security partner, Beijing has taken such measures.
The visit last year by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan was one of the most recent significant increases in activity.
A buffer zone far larger than Taiwan’s national airspace, the “air defence identification zone,” or ADIZ, started publishing daily statistics of the increasing number of Chinese military aircraft entering it in 2020.
According to Ben Lewis, a military analyst who maintains a data set on the flights using data from Taiwan’s defence ministry, the number of People’s Liberation Army flights recorded by Taiwan has increased from 972 in 2021, the first full year when Taiwan began regularly recording the numbers, to 1,737 in 2018, and 1,268 so far this year, including the spike on Monday.
For decades, Chinese authorities have said they prefer a peaceful return of Taiwan, but that they will resort to force if necessary.
There is no reason to believe that war will break out as a result of the increasing Chinese military action surrounding Taiwan. China is also trying to wear down Taiwan’s alertness by testing its military power and using its military to send a message to Taiwanese politicians and people.
China’s intention to control an area of sea that might be crucial to Taiwan’s defences is signalled by the increased military presence in the air and seas off the island’s eastern shore.
The Ministry of National Defence of Taiwan expressed concern about the potential escalation of tensions as a result of “continued military harassment” from China. We demand that the authorities in Beijing halt these harmful unilateral steps immediately.
In terms of recent military drills and activity near Taiwan, China has remained pretty quiet.
China sent an aircraft carrier and several other navy ships and aeroplanes to the Western Pacific last week for extensive military manoeuvres without making any public statements.
According to Institute for National Defence and Security Research analyst Ou Si-fu, Monday’s unprecedented air activity was clearly intended to exert pressure on Taiwan for its efforts to strengthen relations with the United States.
According to Mr. Chieh, China’s silence regarding the drills may be an effort to keep ties with the U.S. on a steady course. China’s senior diplomat, Wang Yi, recently met with White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan and made it clear that Taiwan is a “red line” issue for China.