At least 13 Chinese military planes flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Saturday, the highest recorded number of incidents in a single day so far this year.
The first People’s Liberation Army Air Force aircraft reportedly entered the airspace at around 10:12 a.m., followed four minutes later by some of the other planes.
The aircraft flew at altitudes ranging from 2,500 to 7,800 meters, Taiwan News reported.
Taiwan’s Air Force reportedly scrambled together 26 jets to counter seven of the incursions that occurred in the southwest corner of the ADIZ.
The air force also deployed missiles to “monitor” the aircraft, ABS-CBN reported, citing the Taiwan Defense Ministry.
Thirteen PLA aircraft (Y-8 ASW*1、H-6K*8、J-16*4) entered #Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ on Jan. 23, 2021. Please check our official website for more information: https://t.co/amqJjvHyAj pic.twitter.com/tE1XlHdWmO
— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C. 🇹🇼 (@MoNDefense) January 23, 2021
“Airborne alert sorties had been tasked, radio warnings issued and air defense missile systems deployed to monitor the activity,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
It is unclear at this time why China has stepped up the number of incursions at one time; previous occasions only saw one to three aircraft.
This is not the first time Taiwan has had to scramble together jets in response to Chinese aircraft buzzing the island.
China has conducted almost daily flights over Taiwan, which it claims as a territory, over the past few months, according to ABS-CBN.
In September, fighter jets had to be deployed to counter 18 Chinese aircraft that were responding to a senior U.S. official holding talks in Taipei, Reuters reported.
Keith Krach, then the U.S. undersecretary for economic affairs, had arrived for a three-day visit, prompting China to pledge a “necessary response.”
“The PLA’s aggressive and destabilizing reactions reflect a continued attempt to alter the status quo and rewrite history,” a Pentagon spokesman said at the time.
China has watched the relationship between the United States and Taiwan with concern.
The island’s de facto ambassador even attended President Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday.
Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, told ABS-CBN that the U.S.’s commitment to Taiwan was “rock solid.”
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