More than two dozen Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense zone on Wednesday — with some crossing the median line in the Taiwan Strait, a provocative gesture after Beijing threatened military action over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island nation.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes flew “in the airspace around the Taiwan Strait” Wednesday morning, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense revealed, instructing the island’s air force to dispatch forces to respond as well as monitor anti-aircraft missiles.
The Chinese incursion was made up of six J-11 fighter jets, five J-16 fighters, and 16 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft.
In response to the planes, radio warnings were issued and Taiwanese air defense missile systems were deployed to monitor the activities.
On Tuesday, China sent 21 military planes into the air defense zonebut none crossed the median line separating Beijing and Taipei’s areas of maritime control.
Wednesday’s incident marks the latest aggressive action from China as the nation holds its largest military drills since 1995, which it says are “necessary and just” in the wake of Pelosi’s visit.
The drills are expected to include live fire and test missile launches, according to the state news agency Xinhua. More than half of the drill areas are expected to infringe on Taiwanese waters, experts have warned.
The announcement of the military drills was a direct response to Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei on Tuesday.
China repeatedly blasted the US for allowing the California Democrat to travel to Taiwan, claiming it would have “a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence.’ China firmly opposes and strongly condemns this, and has made serious démarche and strong protest to the United States,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Pelosi and five of her fellow House Democrats left Taiwan after staying approximately 19 hours on Wednesday.
“We come in friendship to Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan’s parliament. “We come in peace for the region… understanding the value of peace and the avoidance of conflict.
“And in terms of governance: We commend Taiwan for being one of the freest societies in the world, for your success in addressing the COVID issue, which is a health issue, a security issue, an economic issue and a governance issue. We congratulate you for that.”
Ahead of the speaker’s visit, some Chinese officials indicated that a Pelosi trip would violate the US’ long-standing “One China” policy with regard to Taiwan.
However, American officials insisted this week that the policy has not changed and Washington does not support Taiwan’s independence.
“We would again remind leaders in Beijing that there is nothing unprecedented about this trip,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “There’s no violation of sovereignty. The speaker going is perfectly consistent with other members of Congress going … including this year.
“So there’s just no reason to amp this up. And we’re not going to participate in this… I’m not going to do saber-rattling. We’re simply going to do what we have to do to make sure that her trip is safe and secure.”
Pelosi also has insisted US policy towards China and Taiwan remains the same, saying: “The United States continued to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”