China’s military on Friday staged its second-largest incursion into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this year, ordering 18 warplanes to fly through the special zone, the Taipei Times reported on Saturday.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) deployed six J-11 fighter jets, six J-16 fighter jets, two H-6 bombers, two KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft, and one Shaanxi Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ on May 6.
“The bombers, accompanied by a [Shaanxi] Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew to the south of Taiwan through the Bashi Channel that separates the nation from the Philippines,” the Taipei Times relayed on May 7, citing an original report by Reuters News Agency.
“The other aircraft flew over an area to the northeast of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands [claimed by China as the Dongsha Islands] at the top end of the South China Sea, according to a map provided by the Taiwanese [defense] ministry,” the newspaper detailed.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed the action on May 6. The ministry told Taiwan News that the island nation’s air force “sent aircraft, issued radio warnings, and deployed air defense missile systems to track the Chinese planes.”
“The highest number of intrusions [of Taiwan’s ADIZ] on a single day in 2022 so far occurred on Jan. 23, when the military spotted 39 People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft,” the online newspaper recalled.
China’s May 6 violation of the airspace directly to the southeast and southwest of Taiwan coincided with Chinese naval and air force drills “to the east and southwest of Taiwan” that took place from May 6 to May 8, according to Reuters.
Beijing confirmed the drills on May 9, with China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command saying it carried out the exercises to “further test and improve the joint combat capability of multiple services and arms.”
“With the carrier group to Taiwan’s east, the PLA also reportedly dispatched an increased number of different types of warplanes and additional warships from the Chinese mainland west of the island of Taiwan, effectively surrounding and enclosing the island,” China’s state-run Global Times detailed of the PLA’s Taiwan-focused drills over the weekend.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a territory of China that should be reunited with the “mainland,” i.e. China, and has increasingly threatened to carry out this so-called “reunification” over the past two years. China’s military has coupled this rhetoric with increasingly belligerent actions toward Taiwan in recent months. The Chinese PLAAF has ramped up air sorties that purposefully violate Taiwan’s ADIZ as a form of intimidation, as witnessed on May 6 and January 23.
Taiwan’s ADIZ is not officially considered Taiwanese airspace, though it serves as a sensitive air border that helps the island nation, located off China’s southeastern coast, monitor and protect its sovereign territory.