China flies 103 military planes over Taiwan in unprecedented drill
Move comes shortly after US and Canada sail warships through Taiwan Strait; Taipei calls Beijing's action 'harassment'
Continuing with its aggressive posture over Taiwan, the Chinese military sent 103 warplanes toward Taiwan in a 24-hour period in what the island's defense ministry called a recent new high.
The planes were detected between 6 am on Sunday (September 17) and 6 am on Monday (September 18), the ministry said. As is customary, they turned back before reaching Taiwan. Chinese warplanes fly toward the self-governing island on a near-daily basis but typically in smaller numbers. The Taiwan ministry didn't explain what time period it meant by a “recent” high.
China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, has conducted increasingly large military drills in the air and waters around Taiwan as tensions have grown between the two and with the United States. The US is Taiwan’s main supplier of arms and opposes any attempt to change Taiwan’s status by force.
The Chinese government would prefer that Taiwan come under its control voluntarily and last week unveiled a plan for an integrated development demonstration zone in Fujian province, trying to entice the Taiwanese even as it threatens the island militarily. Experts term it China's long-running carrot-and-stick approach.
The recent actions may be an attempt to sway Taiwan’s presidential election in January 2024.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which leans toward formal independence for the island, is anathema to the Chinese leadership. China favours opposition candidates who advocate working with the mainland.
The presidential candidates offered no comment on the latest Chinese military activity.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said that 40 of the planes crossed the symbolic halfway point between mainland China and the island. They included more than 30 fighter jets as well as midair refuelling tanker planes. Taiwan also reported nine Chinese naval vessels in area waters in the previous 24 hours.
The ministry called the Chinese military action “harassment” that it warned could escalate in the current tense atmosphere. “We urge the Beijing authorities to bear responsibility and immediately stop such kind of destructive military activities,” the ministry said in a statement. “China last week sent a flotilla of ships including the aircraft carrier Shandong into waters near Taiwan.
The drills came shortly after the US and Canada sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait, the waters that separate the island from the mainland.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 when the Communists took control of China during a civil war. The losing nationalists fled to Taiwan and set up their own government on the island.
Only a few foreign nations give the self-governing island official diplomatic recognition. The US among others has formal ties with China while maintaining a representative office in Taiwan.
(With agency inputs)