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Taiwan rebukes China over largest ever air incursion

October 2, 2021

Defense officials have accused Beijing of "damaging regional peace" after China flew an unprecedented 38 military aircraft into the Taiwanese air defense zone, including nuclear-capable bombers.

The Chinese Shenyang J-16 fighter jet
The People's Liberation Army flew 18 J-16 fighter jets into Taiwan's air defense zone FridayImage: Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C.

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said Saturday that China's military aircraft maneuvers within its air defense zone were an act of "bullying."

The Taiwanese Defense Ministry on Friday said China flew 25 military aircraft into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), in what amounted to a large display of force on China's national day, which celebrates the founding of the People's Republic of China. 

A second group of jets flew into the ADIZ later on Friday night, bringing the total number of warplanes entering the Taiwanese air defense zone to an unprecedented 38.

"China has been bellicose and damaging regional peace while engaging in many bullying acts," Su told reporters.

"It's evident that the world, the international community, rejects such behavior by China more and more."

Taiwan's defense ministry said later in the day that yet another group of 20 Chinese planes entered the ADIZ on Saturday.

What happened during the Chinese incursion?

Taiwanese defense officials said the People's Liberation Army (PLA) flew 18 J-16 fighter jets, two H-6 bombers — which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads — and other planes into the ADIZ, which extends beyond Taiwan's territorial airspace and is monitored for purposes of national security.

Taiwan responded on Friday by deploying planes and tracking the Chinese war planes using air defense systems, the ministry said in a statement.

The map released by the ministry showed the planes flew near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, with the two bombers flying close to the adjacent atoll.

Ongoing tension between China and Taiwan

Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province that one day will be reunited with mainland China. Under President Xi Jinping, China has steadily increased pressure on Taiwan, which is self-governing and considers itself to be an independent country. 

China has routinely sent fighter jets toward Taiwan in recent years, as Taipei's increasing assertion of independence sparks tensions with Beijing. 

Last week, in response to Taiwan's efforts to join a regional trade group, the PLA flew 24 fighter jets toward Taiwan. 

In 2020, China made a record 380 incursions into the ADIZ, and so far this year, China has already done so more than 500 times.

China has increased the pressure since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who said she views Taiwan as "already independent," was elected in 2016.

Earlier this week, the UK sent a warship to the Taiwan Strait for the first time since 2008. Beijing said the UK was showing "evil intentions to sabotage peace and stability."

Taiwan: China's next target? (part 1)

ab, ar/wmr (AP, Reuters)

Correction: An earlier version of this article conflated Taiwan's airspace and its much larger Air Defense Identification Zone.