Taiwan’s defence ministry says 29 Chinese aircraft and four ships have been detected around Taiwan this morning (6am local time), in a worrying escalation of tensions in the region.
The aircrafts were detected in Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) – the broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.
The move marks the second day in a row that Chinese aircrafts have flown into Taiwan’s air defence zone.
Taiwan – which China views as its own territory and has promised to bring back under Beijing’s control – has complained for years about China’s military activities near the island.
Taiwan has responded to the extra pressure from China by upgrading its fleet of F-16 fighter jets and ordering 66 more of the planes from the US while buying a range of other weaponry and extending its mandatory term of military service for all males from four months to one year.
But China says its activities in the area are justified as it seeks to defend its territorial integrity and to warn the United States against “colluding” with Taiwan, despite the anger this causes in Taipei.
In October last year Chinese President Xi Jinping said it was up to the Chinese people to resolve the Taiwan issue.
President Xi said China would never renounce the right to use force but would strive for a peaceful resolution.
Tensions between the Beijing and Taipei rose dramatically in August last year after China staged war games near Taiwan following the visit to Taiwan of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Balloon chaos spreads to Taiwan
Today’s incident comes a week after Taiwan’s military alerted aviation authorities after spotting a balloon floating in its airspace.
That incident came just one week after the self-ruled island found remnants of what was believed to be a crashed Chinese meteorological instrument.
According to its initial analysis, the air force said the object in “northern airspace” on Friday afternoon was for meteorological and scientific research purposes.
“As it could affect aviation safety, we have notified the aviation control units to remind air planes to beware,” the air force statement said.
“We will continue to monitor until the target disappears.” The statement did not say where the balloon came from or provide a more detailed location.
The sighting comes after an order by President Joe Biden to shoot down what the United States has since called a “sophisticated high-altitude spying vehicle” that sparked the latest row between Washington and Beijing.
US officials said it was part of a fleet allegedly floating around the globe, while China has said the balloon was an errant weather observation aircraft with no military purpose. Both sides have since accused each other of espionage.
Taiwan, a self-governed democracy claimed by China, said last month that it had found the remains of a suspected Chinese meteorological balloon and would increase patrols at military facilities.
Taiwan’s defence ministry revealed on February 14 that Chinese balloons have previously flown over the island, without providing details on the number or frequency.
At that time, the ministry said it would shoot down any targets that pose a “high level of threat”, but added that it had not encountered any such threats.
Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure in recent years on Taiwan, which China has vowed to seize one day, by force if necessary.
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