Chinese jets circle Taiwan as intimidating military drills continue

Taipei, Taiwan - Taiwan's defense ministry confirmed on Wednesday that 37 Chinese aircraft had been detected around the island nation, seemingly headed for ongoing drills in the Western Pacific.

37 Chinese military jets were detected in Taiwanese airspace.
37 Chinese military jets were detected in Taiwanese airspace.  © AFP/FREDERIC J. BROWN

China, which claims democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, maintains a near-daily presence around the island. Beijing regularly sends military fighter jets, drones, and warships into Taiwan's territory, which is located 110 miles off the southern Chinese coast.

On Wednesday, Taipei said that "since 0520 today, the Ministry of National Defense detected a total of 37 Chinese aircraft" around Taiwan, including fighter jets, bombers and drones.

Thirty-six of the aircraft crossed the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait, which bisects the narrow waterway which separates the island from China. The news comes less than a week after dozens of Chinese warplanes were similarly detected on Friday.

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The aircraft "headed to the Western Pacific via our southern and southeastern airspace to cooperate with the aircraft carrier the Shandong in conducting 'joint sea and air training'," the defense ministry said in a statement.

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China's air force and navy have been running drills close to Taiwan.
China's air force and navy have been running drills close to Taiwan.  © AFP/Yasuyoshi CHIBA

Defense Minister Wellington Koo told reporters the aircraft carrier "did not pass through the Bashi Channel," but instead, "went further south through the Balingtang Channel towards the Western Pacific."

The Shandong, a massive aircraft carrier that contains huge stores of military equipment and vehicles, has been the centerpiece of major Chinese military drills in the Western Pacific.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has ramped up military and political pressures on the island in recent years.

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Following the inauguration of Taiwan's new President Lai Ching-Te in May, China launched war games around the island as "punishment" for an inauguration speech that Beijing called a "confession of Taiwan independence."

Since then, the US has joined Taiwan in decrying Chinese actions, an Admiral admitting in June that the Taiwan Strait will become an "unmanned hellscape" if China invades. The two allies have significantly ramped up military cooperation, which has angered Beijing.

On Wednesday, Lai met with Raymond Greene, new director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, who emphasized their partnership and called China's action a "provocation."

"We have a long-term and shared interest to maintain the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. This is vital to the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, as well as to global security."

Cover photo: AFP/FREDERIC J. BROWN

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