The Taipei Defense Ministry said in a tweet that a sortie of 32 aircraft crossed the center line in the Taiwan Strait, or the island’s air defense identification zone, as of early Wednesday. The Chinese military has stepped up flights across the line drawn by the United States in 1954, sorties that effectively reduce the buffer zone between the two sides and weaken the smaller Taiwanese armed forces.
The ministry said in a separate statement on Tuesday evening that the Chinese aircraft cooperated with naval vessels to “carry out joint sea and air exercises.” The Taiwanese military is “closely watching” the movements of aircraft and warships, including using “shore-mounted missile systems to closely monitor and engage with them”.
See: Taiwan Candidate Says Its Presidents Should Visit the White House
Last week, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met with delegations of US and Canadian lawmakers, while Taiwan’s Justice Minister Tsai Ching-xiang held talks with his German counterpart, Marco Buschmann, in Berlin. It was the first ever meeting of justice ministers from the two sides, and part of Tsai’s strategy to cultivate Taiwan’s image internationally.
China firmly opposes countries that have official relations with Taiwan’s leaders, saying it amounts to interference in its internal affairs. The People’s Liberation Army sent 54 warplanes to sensitive areas around Taiwan in April after Tsai met Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in the United States. This followed a major exercise by the People’s Liberation Army to practice a blockade on Taiwan in August last year because then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei – the exercises which included sending missiles over the island.
Beijing has vowed to one day bring Taiwan under its control, by force if necessary. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly vowed to defend Taiwan if it is invaded. “China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values,” NATO leaders said in a statement released Tuesday at their summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The statement added that Beijing “is using a wide range of political, economic, and military tools to increase its global presence and project power, while remaining vague about its strategy, intentions, and military build-up.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that “China is increasingly challenging the rules-based international order,” and “threatens Taiwan.”
The latest raids by warplanes came on the heels of Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-tien saying the leader of the island of 23 million should one day be able to visit the White House, as do figures from Japan and South Korea. Lai is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate for president in the January elections next year.
Beijing blames the Democratic Progressive Party for escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait. It prefers contact with the Kuomintang opposition. When Kuomintang member Ma Ying-jeou led Taiwan from 2008 to 2016, he forged closer ties with China.
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The Chinese air force flights also come as Paraguay’s president-elect, Santiago Peña, visits the island, where his delegation is scheduled to meet Tsai and Lai on Wednesday. Paraguay is the only country in South America that officially recognizes Taiwan as a country.
Separately, Taiwan plans to hold an annual live-fire exercise from July 24-28. The defense ministry said in a statement that the island-wide Han Kuang exercises are aimed at strengthening countermeasures against Chinese military threats and integrating lessons learned from the war in Ukraine.
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