The Taiwanese Defense Ministry reported the largest incursion of Chinese warplanes into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) to date on Tuesday.
The record-breaking swarm of 28 Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers mounted their show of force the day after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) criticized China for its mounting aggression against Taiwan.
The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) noted the previous largest incursion “was in April when 25 Chinese jets breached the island’s ADIZ after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China not to attempt to change the status quo of Taiwan, saying to do so would be a ‘serious mistake.’”
The Chinese government had no sooner denounced NATO’s criticism of its aggression as “slander” than it launched the largest penetration of Taiwan’s ADIZ to date, and the 16th incursion this month.
The Chinese may also have escalated their activities because the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan entered the South China Sea on Monday. China claims control over the entire region, in defiance of international court judgments and competing claims from other Pacific nations. Beijing regards U.S. military exercises and Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea as challenges to its illegal claims.
China scaled back its threatening activities in early June, but on Monday it resumed with a vengeance, peppering southwestern Taiwanese airspace with 15 military incursions in a single day. Taiwanese fighters were launched in response and monitored the Chinese planes until they exited the ADIZ.
According to the Taiwanese Defense Ministry, the Chinese planes included J-16 and J-11 fighters and four H-6 nuclear-capable bombers, plus Y-8 surveillance planes configured for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and electronic warfare (EW).
Penetrating a country’s self-declared ADIZ with military aircraft is clearly provocative, but not technically an act of military aggression or a violation of international law. China badgers Taiwan with these incursions as part of a “grey zone” strategy to intimidate Taiwan’s civilian government while exhausting and demoralizing its defense forces, which are obliged to scramble planes in response.
The Chinese military also gains information useful for potential future operations against Taiwan from these flights, including data about the response time and strategy of Taiwanese air defense forces.