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China sent a record number of warplanes to Taiwan’s air defense identification area on Friday and Saturday, ahead of a visit to Taipei by French lawmakers.
The escalation of Beijing’s intimidation against Taipei comes as China endures increasing economic pressure while intensifying domestic regulatory and political intrusions.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, 38 military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense identification area on Friday, including 28 J-16 fighter jets, four SU-30 fighter jets, four H-6 bombers, an anti-submarine aircraft and an early warning aircraft.
The Chinese air force sent 39 planes on Saturday, including 26 J-16 fighter jets, 10 SU-30 fighter jets, two anti-aircraft jets and an aircraft with early warnings, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said. On both days, the numbers are significantly more than the daily record of 28 aircraft, which was set June.
Military experts define the invasions as gray zone tactics, operations aimed at undermining Taiwan’s security but stopping war. China claims Taiwan as its territory and threatens to invade it if Taipei submits to its control indefinitely.
The Taiwanese government on Saturday condemned the latest attacks. “China has been engaging in military aggression, which has damaged local peace,” said Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang.
Last week, Beijing describe Joseph Wu, the Taiwanese foreign minister as a “scarecrow” in an unusual verbal attack that Taipei describes as “slander and abuse”.
October is traditionally a politically charged season as China and Taiwan celebrate their national days this month. On Friday, Beijing marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. On October 10, Taiwan celebrates the Republic of China, the state that was overthrown by the People’s Republic of China on the mainland of China, but still exists in Taiwan, to which the ROC government fled in 1949.
Last year, however, there was no clear increase in air strikes by the People’s Liberation Army.
Some observers in Taiwan have said the PLA’s escalating harassment may be an attempt to intimidate Taiwan ahead of schedule exchanges with Europe. Next week, a delegation of French lawmakers will visit Taipei. Later this month, Taiwan’s top economic planner will lead a delegation of 65 people to various Central and Eastern European countries.
However, military experts have noted that the level of PLA air activity near Taiwan has been at an elevated level for weeks. Since Taiwan conducted its regular annual military exercise in early September, PLA airstrikes have regularly included fighter jets, a pattern rarely seen until now.
The PLA has been sending planes to Taiwan’s ADIZ in Taiwan for an average of 20 days a month since September 2020, when Taipei first made the raids public.
Often only one or two aircraft against submarine vehicles or early warning per day enter the area for long periods. Large numbers of fighters and bombers, such as this weekend, appeared in the past when Taiwan enjoyed internationally attention or engaged in foreign exchanges.
The warplanes do not enter Taiwan’s sovereign airspace, starting just 20 kilometers off the coast of its territory. But by regularly joining the ADIZ, they are forcing the Taiwanese army to continually crush fighter jets, deplete its resources and gather intelligence in the process.