Chinese air force, navy conduct mass drill near Taiwan, raises tensions

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The Chinese air force and navy have organized a large-scale drill off the south and southwest of Taiwan. The defense ministry of Taiwan, a self-ruled island, confirmed the participation of fighter jets, bombers, and warships in the exercise.

China, which considers Taiwan its own territory, has been intensifying military pressure on the island’s government by regularly sending warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in recent years. Last year in August and again in April, China conducted war games around Taiwan. Additionally, since August, Chinese military aircraft have frequently crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which had previously acted as an unofficial boundary between the two territories. Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to assert control over Taiwan.

The defense ministry of Taiwan revealed that within the past 24 hours, it detected 32 Chinese air force planes entering its ADIZ. Notably, four of these planes were H-6 bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. These bombers flew to the south of Taiwan and then proceeded into the Pacific before returning to China, as illustrated by a map shared by the ministry.

Late on Tuesday, Taiwan’s defense ministry stated that the Chinese air force planes were conducting joint training exercises in coordination with Chinese naval vessels to the south of Taiwan. Additionally, four Chinese warships were reportedly involved in “combat readiness patrols.” In response, Taiwan deployed its own aircraft and ships to monitor the activities of the Chinese forces. The ADIZ, which encompasses a wider area for surveillance and patrols by Taiwan, allows the island’s forces more time to respond to potential threats.

China has refrained from commenting on the recent drills or previous ones reported by Taiwan over the past month. However, in June, Taiwan disclosed that eight Chinese warplanes had crossed the median line and approached close to its contiguous zone, which extends 24 nautical miles (44 km) off the coast.

While Taiwan defines its territorial space at 12 nautical miles (22 km) from its coast, it has not reported any instances of Chinese aircraft entering either the contiguous zone or Taiwan’s territorial airspace. The Taiwanese government firmly rejects China’s sovereignty claims and asserts that only the people of Taiwan can determine their future. As part of its preparations, Taiwan is gearing up for the annual Han Kuang military exercises, scheduled to commence on July 24. The exercises will primarily focus on homeland defense, force preservation, and civil-military coordination. Major General Lin Wen-huang, head of the defense ministry’s joint operations planning section, informed reporters that the drills would include simulated scenarios of an attack by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Taiwan’s military efforts to protect its forces. Notably, one of the simulated scenarios involves a PLA airborne assault on Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

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