Taipei scrambles fighter jets as China pierces Taiwan’s airspace

At least eight PLA aircraft make an incursion into the defense identification zone near the Pratas Islands

Military tension between China and Taiwan continues to escalate.

On Friday, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence reported that eight Chinese fighter jets pierced the island’s air defense identification zone near the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea.

In response, Taipei scrambled Air Force interceptors and deployed missile systems.

“Radio warnings [were] issued and [the] air defense missile systems [were] deployed to monitor the activity,” Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The facts:

  • Taiwan is considered a renegade province by China and Beijing has vowed to take the democratic island by force if necessary.
  • This is just the latest incursion into Taiwanese air space by People’s Liberation Army aircraft.
  • Chinese military jets make regular sorties near the disputed Pratas Islands.
  • The last large-scale operation was in January when up to 12 Chinese fighters were involved.
  • Tension in the South China Sea has escalated in the past 18 months.
  • Earlier this month, Beijing denounced drills by the United States Navy in the region.
  • Spearheaded by Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz, two carrier strike groups “conducted a multitude of exercises,” according to the US Navy.

Uneasy peace: China has warned Taiwan that “independence means war” in a stark threat that will escalate tension between Washington and Beijing. The comments came in January during a monthly media briefing by the Chinese Ministry of Defense. It followed increased PLA military activity over the Taiwan Strait.

What was said: “We warn those ‘Taiwan independence’ elements – those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war,” Ministry of Defence spokesman Wu Qian said, adding that the island was an “inseparable part of China.”

Taipei shakeup: Chiu Kuo-cheng, who graduated from the US Army War College, is poised to take over at the Ministry of Defence. He was the director-general of the National Security Bureau. “The most important task of the National Security Bureau is to understand and have a grasp on China,” Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang told a press conference, adding Chiu will take up his post next week.

China Factor comment: The ultimate aim of China’s ruling Communist Party is to dismantle democracy in Taiwan. If that happened, a “One Country, Two Systems” model would be imposed on the island. But after the massive pro-democracy crackdown in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, Beijing has shown that it can not be trusted. Expect even closer ties between Taipei and Washington.