China sent a record 71 fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and held a sharp drill around the island on Sunday, in apparent reaction to passing legislation approving US military loans and aid to Taiwan.
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23 NDAA) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, allowing for up to $2 billion in loans to help Taiwan build military capabilities against threats to strengthen from China.
China’s Defense Ministry said China was “deeply dissatisfied with and strongly opposed to this US move” and warned of an increased “risk of a China-US military confrontation”.
On Christmas Day, Sunday, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) East Theater Command conducted a “joint security patrol for combat readiness and a joint firepower attack exercise” across Taiwan.
Photos made available to Chinese media show the presence of at least one H-6 strategic bomber and a Type 052C guided missile destroyer, as well as the aerial view of the central mountain range of the island of Taiwan, proving the proximity of a Chinese military aircraft involved.
Senior Col. Shi Yi, the command’s spokesman, said in a statement that “this is a firm response to the current escalation of provocations by the US in collusion with Taiwanese authorities.”
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that will be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary, and strongly protests the “interference of external forces in the Taiwan issue.”
“The Taiwan issue is at the heart of China’s core interests. It is the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations and a red line not to be crossed,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a forum on China’s foreign relations on Sunday.
Beijing has responded to US support actions for the self-governing island with military drills and overflights.
In early August, when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an historic visit to Taiwan, the PLA held a week-long series of drills across the island.
Record number of assaults
Over 24 hours as of 6 a.m. local time on Monday, the Chinese military sent 71 military aircraft into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Department of Defense said.
An ADIZ is an area where foreign aircraft are tracked and identified before they enter a country’s airspace.
This is the largest number of intrusions in Taiwan’s ADIZ in a single day. The previous record was 68 on August 5, shortly after Nancy Pelosis’ visit.
Trajectory of Chinese aircraft entering Taiwan’s ADIZ on December 26, 2022. (Source: Taiwan Ministry of Defense)
The ministry said 47 of the planes spotted crossed the center line of the Taiwan Strait, which serves as the de facto border between the island and mainland China.
These include 18 J-16 and 12 J-11 fighter jets and six Su-30 multi-role fighters, it said.
Taiwan’s armed forces “have been monitoring the situation and have tasked combat air patrol (CAP) aircraft, naval vessels and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities.”
Taiwan has accused China of creating a “new normal” by invading the center line, which is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Taiwan’s waters.
The line, also known as the Davis Line, was established by a US general in 1954 at the height of hostilities between Beijing and Taipei, and the PLA largely respected it until a State Department spokesman said there was no such thing in 2020 .