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China Sends A Record 28 Military Planes Into Airspace Controlled By Taiwan

The Taiwanese military released this photo of a Chinese fighter jet flying in an undisclosed location. China sent a record 28 warplanes toward Taiwan in the latest such event.
The Taiwanese military released this photo of a Chinese fighter jet flying in an undisclosed location. China sent a record 28 warplanes toward Taiwan in the latest such event.

China has flown 28 warplanes into Taiwan-controlled airspace, the biggest sortie of its kind since the Taiwanese government began publishing information about the frequent incursions last year.

The flights are widely seen as part of an effort by Beijing to dial up pressure on Taiwan, a self-governed democracy of about 24 million people off the Chinese coast that the Chinese government considers a part of China.

Taiwan's defense ministry said it scrambled planes, deployed missile defense systems and issued radio warnings as the Chinese planes entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone to the south of the island on Monday.

China describes such flights as routine. Large sorties have often followed actions by Taiwan or the United States that Beijing disapproves of.

Monday's incursion came a day after NATO leaders expressed concern about China as a growing security threat. A day earlier, leaders of the Group of Seven nations meeting in Europe pledged to work together against China's "non-market" economic policies and criticized China over human rights.

China's foreign ministry decried both statements.

China has reacted to criticism with warplanes

In April, China sent 25 military planes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone after the State Department said it was making it easier for U.S. officials to meet Taiwanese officials.

And last August, China flew planes across the midway line between Taiwan and the mainland when Taiwan hosted then-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

The latest flights included 20 Chinese fighter jets, four H-6 bombers (a variant of which is nuclear capable), several early warning planes and an anti-submarine aircraft, according to Taiwan's defense ministry.

A defense ministry graphic showed that the planes followed a similar route to previous flights, flying to the southeast between the southern tip Taiwan and the Pratas Islands, which Taipei controls. Some then turned northeast, flying on the far side of the island before backtracking and heading home.

The G-7 statement last week also mentioned Taiwan by name, emphasizing the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. That prompted Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to tweet her thanks.

"#Taiwan is dedicated to maintaining a free & open Indo-Pacific, & will continue to work with our global partners to ensure regional security," she said.

The Biden administration has pledged closer ties with Taiwan, even though the two do not have formal diplomatic relations. The State Department has urged Beijing to stop efforts to intimidate the island and instead to engage in dialogue.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.