TAIPEI: In 24-hour period, China’s military sent 103 warplanes towards Taiwan, which the island’s defense ministry claimed on Monday was a new daily record in recent times. The planes were noticed between 6 a.m. on Sunday and 6 a.m. on Monday, the ministry said. As is customary, they turned back before reaching Taiwan.
China, which asserts Taiwan as part of its territory, has conducted increasingly large military drills in the air and waters around Taiwan as tensions have grown between the two and with the United States. The US, which is Taiwan’s main supplier of arms, opposes any attempt to change Taiwan’s status through force.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that 40 of the planes crossed the symbolic halfway point between mainland China and the island. It also reported nine naval vessels in the last 24 hours.
The ministry called the Chinese military action “harassment” and warned that it could escalate the current tense atmosphere. “We urge the Beijing authorities to bear responsibility and immediately stop such kind of destructive military activities,” it said in a statement.”
China last week sent a flotilla of ships including the aircraft carrier Shandong into waters near Taiwan. The drills came shortly after the US and Canada sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait, the waters that separate the island from the mainland.
China also revealed a plan for an integrated development demonstration zone with Taiwan in China’s nearby Fujian province, trying to entice Taiwan while also warning it. Experts say it is China’s long-running carrot and stick approach.
The recent actions by China may be an attempt to sway Taiwan’s presidential election slated to be held in January. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which leans towards formal independence for the island, is anathema to the Chinese government. China favours opposition candidates who support working with the mainland.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 when the communists took control of China during a civil war. The losing Nationalists fled to Taiwan and set up their own government in the island.
The island is self-governing, though only a few foreign nations give it official diplomatic recognition. The US among others has formal ties with China while it maintains a representative office in Taiwan.