Chinese Air Force sends 77 fighter jets to Taiwan defense zone in two days, says Taipei

The 38 and 39 planes respectively represent the highest number of incursions Taiwan has reported in a day since it began reporting publicly on such activities last year.

Saturday’s incursions occurred in two batches – 20 planes during the day and 19 planes at night, the ministry said in two statements. They were manufactured by 26 J-16 fighter jets, 10 Su-30 fighter jets, two Y-8 anti-submarine warning aircraft and a KJ-500 early warning and airborne control aircraft, a indicated the Ministry of Defense.

In response to the incursions, the Taiwan Air Force dispatched planes, issued radio warnings and deployed air defense missile systems, the ministry added.

Maps provided by the Taiwan Defense Ministry showed that all Chinese flights on Saturday were in the extreme southwest of the island’s ADIZ.

The incursions did not violate Taiwan’s airspace, which stretches 12 nautical miles from its coast. The United States Federal Aviation Administration defines an ADIZ as “a designated area of ​​airspace above land or water in which a country requires immediate and positive identification, location and traffic control. of aircraft in the interest of the national security of the country ”.

Prior to the past two days, the previous day’s record for People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flights to Taiwan’s ADIZ was in June, when 28 Chinese military planes entered.

Friday’s forays came as Beijing celebrated the 72th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Taiwan and mainland China have been ruled separately since a civil war ended more than seven decades ago, in which defeated nationalists fled to Taipei.

However, Beijing sees Taiwan as an inseparable part of its territory, even though the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled the democratic island of about 24 million people.

Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to exclude military force to capture Taiwan if necessary.

In the past, analysts have said that PLA flights likely served several purposes for China, both demonstrating the strength of the PLA to a national audience and giving the Chinese the intelligence and military skills they needed. would need in any potential conflict involving Taiwan.

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“Xi Jinping asked the PLA to improve its readiness and prepare for combat under“ realistic combat conditions ”. Therefore, it is not surprising that the PLA continues to fly into Taiwan’s ADIZ as part of realistic armed conflict training and preparation, ”senior analyst Derek Grossman told CNN on Saturday. defense at the RAND Corporation policy think tank.

Despite the increase in PLA flights and harsh rhetoric, Grossman doesn’t think the fight is imminent.

“I don’t think there is a high or even a medium likelihood of a Chinese attack or invasion of Taiwan,” he told CNN.

“The PLA still has many vulnerabilities, especially in the face of almost certain intervention by the United States with possibly – probably? – Japanese and Australian support,” he added. “China understands the serious drawbacks of a failed attack or invasion of Taiwan and will likely continue to bide its time.”

But any expected message from Beijing may not relate to the main island of Taiwan, other analysts say.

Maps provided by the Taiwan Defense Ministry show that PLA Air Force flights arrive near Pratas Island, which sits atop the South China Sea and is actually closer to Hong Kong than Taiwan.

This island has no permanent residents but is home to a small Taiwanese military contingent and has an airstrip. Analysts note that it is flat and would be difficult to defend.

“China could take control of the Pratas Islands whenever Chinese President Xi Jinping decides,” Yoshiyuki Ogasawara, professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, wrote on The Diplomat in December.

“The islands are a potential flashpoint that must now attract the attention of the United States, Japan and other democratic countries,” Ogasawara wrote.

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