China flexes its military muscles sending 25 war planes and three warships towards Taiwan as tensions between Beijing and US ramp up
- Taiwan has upgraded its fleet of F-16 fighter jets by ordering 66 jets from the US
- Relations between Beijing and Washington have spiraled over China’s actions
China sent 25 warplanes and three warships towards Taiwan this morning, the island’s Defense Ministry said, as tensions remain high between Beijing and Taipei’s main backer Washington.
Taiwan’s ministry said it spotted 19 of those planes crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) while the three ships were continuing to operate in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan responded by scrambling its fighter jets, dispatching ships, and activating coastal missile defense systems to ‘closely monitor and respond’.
Similar incursions are staged by China on a near-daily basis, part of what are termed ‘gray zone’ tactics, aimed at intimidation and wearing down Taiwan´s equipment, exhausting its personnel and degrading public morale. Those also include cyberwarfare and disinformation campaigns, along with a relentless drive to deprive Taiwan of diplomatic allies.
But now Taiwan has responded by upgrading its fleet of 141 F-16 fighter jets and has ordered 66 more of the planes from the U.S., as tensions ramp up even further between Beijing and Washington.
Taiwan’s ministry said it spotted 19 Chinese planes crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone today. Pictured: Chinese PL-10 fighter jet
The three Chinese ships were continuing to operate in the Taiwan Strait. Pictured: A Chinese warship takes part in the multinational exercise near Karachi, Pakistan, February 13, 2023
Taiwan responded by scrambling its fighter jets, dispatching ships, and activating coastal missile defense systems to ‘closely monitor and respond’ around the Taiwan Strait
As well as the aircraft, Taiwan has also purchased a range of other weaponry from its U.S. allies. Last September, the country spent $1.1 billion in the deal that included Sidewinder surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.
The island nation will also extend its mandatory term of military service for all males from four months to one year.
Despite the incursion from China, the aircraft did not cross the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait, which previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides but which China’s air force has been flying over on an almost daily basis since staging war games near Taiwan last August.
No shots have been fired and the Chinese aircraft have been flying in Taiwan’s ADIZ, not in its territorial air space.
The ADIZ is a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.
The democratically elected Taiwanese government has repeatedly offered talks with China, but says the island will defend itself if attacked and that only the Taiwanese people can decide their own future.
Relations between Beijing and Washington, Taiwan’s primary ally and source of defensive weaponry, have spiraled over China´s actions toward the island, trade, technology and the South China Sea.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a visit to Beijing last month after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the U.S. east coast, drawing furious protests from China.
Taiwan has responded by upgrading its fleet of 141 F-16 fighter jets (pictured) and has ordered 66 more of the planes from the U.S
Planes from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force fly in formation
Taiwan will extend its mandatory term of military service for all males from four months to one year. Pictured: Two soldiers lower the national flag in Taipei, Taiwan, July 30, 2022
At a press conference Blinken said that the high-altitude surveillance craft seen flying over the continental United States near South Carolina ‘created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip.’
China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary, and has been rapidly expanding its military to meet that challenge should it arise.
In memos and testimony, top U.S. officers have called for heightened preparations, saying China sees a shrinking window for action and may move on Taiwan within a few years.
China says it prefers peaceful unification between the sides, but the Taiwanese public overwhelmingly favors the current state of de-facto independence.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a visit to Beijing last month after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, pictured March 1, 2023 in Uzbekistan
Then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (sixth left) visited Taiwan in August last year
Wednesday’s incursions were relatively modest by recent standards. During China’s National Day weekend in 2021, Beijing dispatched 149 military aircraft southwest of Taiwan in strike group formations.
In August, in response to a trip to Taiwan by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China staged war games surrounding the island simulating a blockade and fired missiles over it into the Pacific Ocean.
Along with ordering new hardware from the U.S., Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has been pushing for a revitalization of the domestic defense industry, including producing conventionally powered submarines.
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