Taiwan says 19 Chinese fighter jets entered its air defence zone

A total of 25 Chinese warplanes and three warships were monitored operating off the Taiwanese coast.

Two pilot run past a Defensive Fighter
Chinese air force planes entered Taiwan's ADIZ on Wednesday - the latest testing of the island's military responses [File: Sam Yeh/AFP]

Taiwan’s defence ministry has observed 19 Chinese air force combat planes entering the island’s air defence zone in the past 24 hours, part of what Taipei calls regular harassment by Beijing.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that 19 Chinese J-10 fighters had flown into the southwestern corner of the island’s air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, though they remained closer to China’s coast than Taiwan’s, according to a map the ministry released of the air incursion.

The Taiwanese military monitored the situation and ordered the air force to scramble fighter planes, prepared to dispatch ships, and activated coastal missile defence systems in response, the ministry said.

Six other Chinese air force planes and three Chinese navy vessels were also detected operating near Taiwan on Wednesday, but they did not enter Taiwan’s ADIZ.

Taiwan – which China views as its own territory and has promised to bring back under Beijing’s control – has complained for years about China’s military activities near the island.

The Chinese aircraft on Wednesday entered the ADIZ but did not cross the more sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait, which previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides.

The ADIZ is a broader area that Taiwan monitors in order to give it more time to respond to any threats.

China’s air force has also flown over the median line on an almost daily basis since staging war games near Taiwan last August to protest against the visit to the island of then-United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Taiwan has responded to the extra pressure from China by upgrading its fleet of F-16 fighter jets and ordering 66 more of the planes from the US while buying a range of other weaponry and extending its mandatory term of military service for all males from four months to one year.

Relations between Beijing and Washington, Taiwan’s primary ally and source of defensive weaponry, have also spiralled recently over China’s actions towards the island, as well as trade and technology issues, and simmering tensions in the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a visit to Beijing last month after the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the US east coast, drawing furious protests from China.

Wednesday’s incursions were also relatively modest by recent standards. During China’s National Day weekend in 2021, Beijing dispatched 149 military aircraft southwest of Taiwan in strike group formations

Democratically-elected Taiwan has repeatedly offered talks with China regarding the status of the island, but has also said it will defend itself if attacked, and that only the Taiwanese people can decide their future.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies