TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan activated its defense systems on Thursday after reporting 37 Chinese military aircraft flying in the island’s air defense zone, and some subsequently flying into the western Pacific, in Beijing’s latest mass air incursion.
China, which views democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, over the past three years has regularly moved its air force into the skies near the island, but not into Taiwan’s territorial airspace.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that since 5 a.m. (2100 GMT Wednesday) it has detected 37 Chinese Air Force aircraft, including J-11 and J-16 fighters as well as nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, flying in the southwest corner. from its location. Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ.
The ADIZ is a broader area that Taiwan monitors and patrols to give its forces more time to respond to threats.
The ministry said in a statement that some of the Chinese planes had flown to southeastern Taiwan and crossed into the western Pacific Ocean to perform “aerial observation and long-distance navigation training.”
She added that Taiwan had sent its planes and ships to monitor and activate ground-based missile systems, using its standard formulation for how it should respond to such Chinese activity.
China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China completed the second phase of joint air patrols with Russia over the western Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, following flights the previous day over the Seas of Japan and East China Seas, raising Japan’s concerns about its national security.
Laura Rosenberger, president of the American Institute in Taiwan, which manages unofficial relations between Washington and Taipei, is visiting Taiwan this week.
She told Taiwanese media on Monday that the United States has an enduring interest in maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait and that the United States will continue to weaponize the island, a source of persistent contention in Sino-American relations.
In April, China conducted war games around Taiwan following a trip to the United States by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan’s government rejects China’s claims to sovereignty and says that only the island’s residents can decide their own future.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard). Editing by Tom Hogg and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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