Taiwan reports new large-scale Chinese air force incursion | News

China is yet to comment on the incursions, which Taiwan says included 34 fighter jets and four electronic warfare aircraft.

Taiwan has reported the largest incursion since October by China’s air force into its air defense zone, with the island’s defense ministry saying Taiwanese fighters scrambled to warn away 39 aircraft in the latest uptick in tensions.

Taiwan has complained for more than a year of repeated missions by China’s air force near the democratically governed island, often in the southwestern part of its air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.

Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “gray zone” warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwan’s forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwan’s responses.

The latest Chinese mission included 34 fighters plus four electronic warfare aircraft and a single bomber, the Taiwan ministry said.

Taiwan-JetA pilot of an F-16 fighter jet attends a military drill at Zhi-Hang Air Base in Taitung, Taiwan [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The aircraft flew in an area to the northeast of the Pratas, according to a map the ministry provided.

The Taiwan Air Force issued radio warnings and its air defense missile systems were activated, the ministry said in a statement issued late on Sunday.

There was no immediate comment from China, which has in the past said such moves were drills aimed at protecting the country’s sovereignty.

China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims. Taiwan’s government says it wants peace but will defend itself if attacked.

It is not clear what might have prompted Sunday’s activities. China often times them to coincide with the visits of senior foreign dignitaries to Taiwan, or to coincide with certain key dates.

Ongoing incursions

The incursion on Sunday was the largest by Chinese warplanes since October 4, when a record 56 aircraft were detected in Taiwan’s air defense zone.

Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern parts of its air defense zone over a four-day period beginning on October 1, the same day China marked a key patriotic holiday, National Day.

Before the latest incursion, Beijing had already sent 70 Chinese warplanes on 17 days into Taiwan’s air defense zone since the new year began.

No shots have been fired and the Chinese aircraft has not been flying in Taiwan’s airspace, but in its ADIZ, a broader area of ​​Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.

Taiwan has had an independent government since 1949, but China considers the self-ruled democracy part of its territory.

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