At least 38 Chinese planes flying in two waves crossed Taiwan’s air defense zone, leading to the deployment of its fighter jets.
Taiwan has reported the largest-ever raid by the Chinese Air Force into its air defense zone, with 38 planes flying in two waves as Beijing marked the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
China-claimed Taiwan has been complaining for a year or more of repeated Chinese Air Force missions near the democratically-ruled island, often in the southwestern part of the air defense zone close to Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense first reported that Taiwanese fighters had fought 18 J-16 and four Su-30 fighter jets plus two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers and an anti-submarine aircraft on Friday.
Then, in the early hours of Saturday, the ministry said another 13 Chinese planes were involved in a mission on Friday evening — 10 J-16s, 2 H-6s and an early-warning aircraft.
It said Taiwan sent warplanes to warn the Chinese planes, while missile systems were deployed to track them.
The first batch of Chinese planes all flew in an area close to the Pratas Islands, with the two bombers flying closest to the atoll, according to a map released by the ministry.
The second group flew to the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, a major waterway connecting the Pacific Ocean to the disputed South China Sea.
China has not yet commented on its activities. It has previously said such flights were to protect the country’s sovereignty and targeted “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States, the island’s main international lender.
The previous largest raid took place in June, involving 28 Chinese Air Force planes.
China’s latest mission came less than a day after the government launched an attack on Taiwan’s foreign minister, with revolutionary leader Mao Zedong decrying him as a “shearing” fly for his efforts to promote Taiwan internationally.
China has stepped up military and political pressure to try to force Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty.
Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedom and democracy.