Tensions rise as China’s PLA jets pierce Taiwan’s defensive zone

Bombers with fighter escorts trigger Taipei missile alerts and spark US condemnation

Washington has warned Beijing about escalating military tension after Chinese bombers and fighter jets pierced Taiwan’s airspace for the second-day running.

At least 24 aircraft were involved in missions conducted during the past 48 hours as President Xi Jinping’s ruling Communist Party government continued to ratchet up “pressure” on the democratic island.

They included nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and J-16 fighter jets, developed for incursions in the Taiwan Strait. 

The incidents also came less than a week after President Joe Biden’s administration took over the White House from Donald Trump’s outgoing team.

“Airborne alert sorties had been tasked, radio warnings issued and air defense missile systems deployed to monitor the activity,” Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence said in a brief statement.

The facts:

  • China’s PLA Air Force mounted two of its largest missions in provocative acts of saber-rattling.
  • Taiwan was forced to scramble fighter jets and deploy missiles to monitor China’s incursions.
  • The United States issued a warning, calling on Beijing to stop “pressuring” Taipei.
  • China considers democratic Taiwan as a renegade province.
  • It has vowed to unify the island with the mainland by force if necessary.
  • A defense contract worth US$8 billion has been inked between Washington and Taipei as China increases its military presence in the Taiwan Strait.

What was said: “The United States notes with concern the pattern of ongoing PRC attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan. 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,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Reaction to the news: “China will take all necessary actions to firmly safeguard its sovereignty,” Ministry of Foreign affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing when asked about the Taiwan question. 

China Factor comment: Xi’s government has sent a clear message to Biden and his cabinet that its ultimate aim is to dismantle democracy in Taiwan and impose a “One Country, Two Systems” model on the island. But attitudes towards China have hardened after the massive pro-democracy crackdown in Hong Kong. Washington is also committed across the political divide to contain China’s growing military might.