Taiwan sees second Chinese air incursion as US agrees arms sale

Seventeen Chinese J-10 combat planes and four advanced Shenyang J-16 fighters entered Taiwan’s air defence zone just as US announced potential $619m weapons sale.

FILE - In this undated file photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, a Chinese PLA J-16 fighter jet flies in an undisclosed location. China’s military sent 71 planes, including J16 fighter jets, and seven ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the island, Taiwan’s defense ministry said Monday, Dec. 26, 2022, after China expressed anger at Taiwan-related provisions in a U.S. annual defense spending bill passed on Saturday.(Taiwan Ministry of Defense via AP, File)
An advanced Chinese J-16 fighter in an undisclosed location. Taiwan reported that four J-16s were among 21 Chinese combat aircraft that entered its air defence identification zone on March 2, 2023 [File: Taiwan Ministry of National Defense via AP Photo]

Taiwan has reported a large-scale Chinese air force incursion into its air defence zone for a second day running, just as the United States approved the potential sale of $619m in weapons to the island – including hi-tech missiles for Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said a total of 21 Chinese combat planes – 17 Chengdu J-10 multirole fighters and four advanced Shenyang J-16 strike fighters – had flown into the southwestern corner of the island’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Thursday.

The J-10s, an older fighter model that first entered service 20 years ago, flew closer to the Chinese coast than Taiwan’s, while the J-16s, a much newer and more advanced fighter, flew in an area to the northeast of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, according to a map of the incident released by the ministry.

A further eight Chinese aircraft and four Chinese naval vessels were also detected operating off the coast of Taiwan but did not enter the ADIZ, the ministry said.

Taiwan’s armed forces were monitoring “the situation and tasked CAP [combat air patrol] aircraft, Navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities,” the defence ministry said in its statement.

On Wednesday, Taiwan reported that 19 Chinese air force combat planes had entered the air defence zone in the previous 24 hours.

China has not commented on its recent military activities near Taiwan. In January, Beijing said it staged combat drills around the island to “resolutely counter the provocative actions of external forces and Taiwan independence separatist forces”.

Washington’s announcement of the potential sale of almost $620 in hi-tech arms to Taiwan is likely to further heighten tensions between the US and Beijing.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that the US State Department had approved the potential sale to Taiwan of arms and equipment including 200 anti-aircraft Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 100 AGM-88B HARM missiles that can take out land-based radar stations.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” Taiwan’s defence department said in a statement.

The weapons sale will “contribute to the recipient’s capability to provide for the defence of its airspace, regional security, and interoperability with the United States,” it added.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it was “firmly” opposed to the planned sale, adding that the US should stop arms sales to and military contacts with Taiwan.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said the missiles would help “effectively defend the airspace to deal with threats and provocations from the Communist military” and would bolster defence stockpiles.

Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin are the principal contractors, it added. China has sanctioned both companies for selling Taiwan weapons.

Taiwan has complained for years of stepped-up Chinese military activities near the island as Beijing seeks to assert its claims over the democratically-run Taiwan. China maintains its activities are justified as it seeks to defend its territorial integrity and has warned the US against “colluding” with Taiwan.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies