China’s air force sent 25 fighters and bombers over the Taiwan Strait, escalating military pressure on the government in Taipei as it boosts ties with the U.S.
Beijing deployed 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighters, four H-6K bombers, two Y-8 anti-sub warfare planes and one KJ-500 early warning aircraft into the southwest section of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone Monday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
The sortie was the largest China has sent toward Taiwan this year. The ministry said the Taiwanese air force responded by sending patrol aircraft to the area and tracking the Chinese planes with missile defense systems.
Chinese military activity has steadily picked up around democratically ruled Taiwan in recent months. The Chinese Defense Ministry said last week that the Liaoning aircraft carrier had carried out exercises near Taiwan recently and the navy is planning more drills. The People’s Liberation Army also said that it monitored the USS John S. McCain destroyer as it sailed through the Taiwan Strait.
Washington and Beijing have been issuing warnings to each other regarding Taiwan since President Joe Biden took office in January, adding to tensions that increased steadily during the Trump administration. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China should avoid encroaching on Taiwan, adding Beijing was fomenting tensions in the strait with “aggressive actions.”
The State Department said in January that Washington had a “rock solid” commitment to Taipei after China flew more than a dozen military aircraft, including the H-6K bombers, over the strait. The bombers are believed to be capable of carrying land-attack cruise missiles.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi used an annual press briefing last month to warn the Biden administration to be careful in its dealings with Taipei. Wang said the U.S. should stop “crossing lines and playing with fire,” adding there was “no room for compromise or concessions” in Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.
The U.S. on Friday restored rules governing officials’ contacts with Taiwan that were lifted near the end of the Trump administration, a step intended to help return some semblance of order to ties between Washington and Taipei. China claims Taiwan as its own territory, but it has governed itself since 1949.
The State Department didn’t detail ways in which the guidelines will be loosened. But two people familiar with the move said that U.S. officials would be allowed to host Taiwanese officials at U.S. federal buildings and meet Taiwanese counterparts at its government offices.
The latest guidance “underscores Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and an important security and economic partner that is also a force for good in the international community,” spokesman Ned Price said.
China rejects any sort of official contact between the U.S. and Taiwan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a regular briefing Tuesday in Beijing.
Late last month Washington and Taipei agreed to boost cooperation between their coast guards amid efforts by China to deploy its coast guard and civilian fishing fleets to assert territorial claims. That move came after the U.S. voiced concern over the presence of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels near a disputed reef in the South China Sea. China has said the ships were only sheltering from the wind.
The U.S. is carrying out “strategic planning” with its Australian ally to consider potential joint responses to a war over Taiwan, Michael Goldman, the U.S.’s top diplomat in Canberra has said.
“We’re committed as allies to working together — not only in making our militaries interoperable and functioning well together, but also in strategic planning,” Goldman, the U.S. Embassy’s chargé d’affaires, said in an a podcast released April 1.
Beijing cut off ties with the island when Tsai Ing-wen became president in 2016, and employs a range of methods to pressure and isolate her government. Paraguay said in March that it was approached with offers of Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for breaking ties with Taiwan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Beijing is “always honorable and above board” with its offers for help with shots.
The Communist Party ruling China sees Taiwan as its territory, which must be seized by force if necessary. Taipei rejects the claim, saying Taiwan is already a de facto sovereign nation.