By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES |
Chinese warplanes flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone two days in a row over the weekend, stepping up its show of force a day after President Joe Biden’s administration signaled support for the self-governing island.
Fifteen Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighters, two Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft and a technical reconnaissance plane, entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone Sunday, the island’s Military News Agency reported that day. They passed between Taiwan’s southern shores and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea, according to the report.
The aircraft traveled southeast, away from the Chinese mainland, before turning around and flying along virtually the same flight path, according to maps released online by Taiwan’s air force.
The incident came one day after China flew eight H-6K nuclear-capable bombers, a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft and four fighters through the same area, the news agency said.
In both instances, Taiwan dispatched airborne alert aircraft, issued radio warnings and deployed air defense missile systems for tracking and surveillance, according to the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense.
China carries out near daily flights into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, but not usually of the size and scope seen over the weekend, the English-language news website Taiwan News reported Sunday.
Last year saw the highest number of Chinese incursions – 380 – since 1996, Voice of America reported this month, citing Taiwan’s defense ministry.
Taiwanese lawmakers believe China is trying to discourage the new U.S. president from supporting the island, Reuters reported Saturday.
“It’s sending a message to the Biden administration,” Lo Chih-Cheng, a senior lawmaker from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said Saturday, according to Reuters.
China considers Taiwan, which is less than 100 miles off its eastern coast, to be a part of its territory.
On Saturday, the Biden administration weighed in with a statement from the U.S. State Department.
“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region,” State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote on the department’s website. “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.”
Price vowed to stand with Taiwan and to even deepen ties.
“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability,” he said.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sunday thanked Price for his statements via Twitter.
“We’re committed to our partnership” with the United States, the ministry account said.