China’s military sent more than 150 warplanes to Taiwan this week in an unprecedented military action that the island’s government immediately condemned as “harassment”.
On Monday, mainland China’s military, officially known as the People’s Liberation Army, flew 103 warplanes near and over the island in a 24-hour period in what the island’s defense ministry called a recent new high. On Tuesday, an additional 55 PLA aircraft were spotted near the island by Taiwan’s ROC Armed Forces.
The Ministry of National Defense said 40 of the aircraft had entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, the symbolic middle line between mainland China and the island. They included more than 30 fighter jets as well as aerial refueling aircraft. Another 27 of the warplanes on Tuesday crossed the ADIZ.
“We urge the Beijing authorities to take responsibility and immediately stop such destructive military activities,” Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement, calling the Chinese military action a “harassment” that could escalate in the current tense atmosphere.
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China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, flies warplanes to the self-ruled island almost daily, but usually in smaller numbers. As usual, they turned back before reaching Taiwan.
When asked about the activity, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said there is no “middle line” because the island of Taiwan, although self-governing, is officially recognized as part of Chinese territory.
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Most of the international community, including the US, officially recognizes the “One China” policy, although President Biden said the US would respond if China invaded the island – a comment the White House later backed off.
In recent months, China has continued its aggressive drive to expand its influence across the Pacific, which includes increasingly large military exercises in the air and waters around Taiwan. The US is Taiwan’s main arms supplier and opposes any attempt to change Taiwan’s regime by force.
The Chinese government would prefer Taiwan to come under its autonomous control voluntarily, and last week unveiled a plan for an integrated development demonstration zone in Fujian province.
The move was likely trying to lure the Taiwanese even as it threatens the island militarily in what experts say is China’s long-standing carrot-and-stick approach. China could also try to influence Taiwan’s presidential election in January.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which leans toward the island’s formal independence, is anathema to the Chinese leadership. Instead, China favors opposition candidates who support cooperation with the mainland.
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Taiwan and China were separated during a civil war in 1949 when the Communists took control of mainland China. The defeated Nationalists fled to Taiwan and were allowed to establish their own government on the island.
Only a few foreign nations give the island official diplomatic recognition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.