Agencies: For two straight days, China sent a record number of planes in its direction, Taiwan said, a display of strength that added muscle to Beijing’s warnings that it could ultimately use force to take hold of the self-ruled island.
Although the sorties by nearly 80 aircraft did not suggest an imminent threat of war, the planes reflect Beijing’s increasingly unabashed signaling that it wants to absorb Taiwan. Notably, China sent the flights out on a symbolic weekend: Oct. 1 is the country’s National Day holiday. Taiwan has been preparing to mark its own national holiday, on Oct. 10.
Chinese military planes now enter Taiwan’s “air identification zone” nearly every day, but these flights stood out because of the number and types of planes involved, including bombers and anti-submarine planes, and because China sent its planes at night.
Context: The flights did not cross into Taiwan’s sovereign airspace, which reaches 12 nautical miles from its coast. But they did cross into the island’s much larger identification zone, where Taiwanese authorities assert the right to tell entering planes to identify themselves and their purpose.
Response: Taiwan’s military responded by sending its own fighter jets to monitor, but not confront, the planes. The strain of responding to China’s regular intrusions is wearing on Taiwanese pilots and aircraft, and experts said it could be affecting the island’s overall vigilance.
U.S.: Taiwan’s security increasingly depends on the U.S., which provides most of its weapons and condemned the Chinese flights. Under a 1979 law, the U.S. could intervene in an attempted military takeover, but it is not obliged to do so.