Taiwan's defense ministry detects 21 Chinese military aircraft

Taiwan’s defense ministry detects 21 Chinese military aircraft

/ 01:06 PM April 20, 2024

Taiwan's defense ministry detects 21 Chinese military aircraft

In this photo taken on June 15, 2016, a vendor stands behind a map of China including an insert with red dotted lines showing China’s claimed territory in the South China Sea, in Beijing. Chinese pressure was blamed on June 16 for a stunning diplomatic U-turn by Southeast Asian Nations that saw them retract a statement sounding alarm over Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea – a vast tract of water through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes. The Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to harbor significant oil and gas deposits. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taipei’s defense ministry said it had detected 21 Chinese military aircraft around the self-ruled island since early morning on Saturday, a month before Taiwan’s May 20 inauguration of incoming president Lai Ching-te.

“Seventeen aircraft (of the 21) crossed the median line and its extension, entered our northern, central, and southwestern (air defense identification zone), and joined PLA vessels for joint combat patrol,” it said in a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter) around 11:30 a.m.


Taiwan’s armed forces “are monitoring the activities with our joint surveillance systems, and have dispatched appropriate assets to respond accordingly.”


The Chinese military aircraft were observed since 8:15 a.m. (0015 GMT) on April 20.

The median line bisects the Taiwan Strait, a narrow 180-kilometer (110-mile) waterway separating the island from mainland China.

Beijing does not recognize the line as it claims democratic Taiwan as part of its territory. It has also never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

READ: 36 Chinese military aircraft detected around Taiwan

China sends warplanes and naval vessels around Taiwan on a near daily basis – a move experts say is a form of “grey-zone harassment”, stopping short of an outright act of war but enough to exhaust Taipei’s armed forces.

According to the defense ministry, the 21 aerial objects detected Saturday included J-16 fighter jets and Y-8 medium-range transport aircraft, as well as drones.


The highest number around Taiwan so far this year was in March, when the ministry said 36 Chinese aircraft were detected in a single 24-hour period.

Last year’s record was in September when Beijing’s military sent 103 aircraft – 40 of which crossed the median line – in a 24-hour period.

Saturday’s show of force comes a day after China activated two aviation routes that run close to Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu.

Taipei’s Civil Aviation Administration expressed “solemn protest against China’s unilateral measures without consultation” on Friday.

READ: Taiwan reports more Chinese balloons over Taiwan Strait

The new routes make the airspace separation between the two sides “very narrow,” it said, increasing flight safety risks during bad weather or abnormal flight operations.

China’s aviation authority also said Friday the airspace around Fuzhou Changle Airport – 30 kilometers from the closest outlying Taiwanese island – would be “further optimized and adjusted” on May 16, four days before the inauguration.

Under the administration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, tensions between Beijing and Taipei have ramped up, as she and her government do not acknowledge China’s claim.

Her deputy, Vice President Lai, won elections in January despite warnings from Beijing that he would be the cause of “war and decline” for Taiwan.

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China regards Lai – who used to be outspoken about Taiwan independence – as a “dangerous separatist,” though he has moderated his views in recent years.

TAGS: China, Taiwan

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