Angry Taiwan slams China’s ‘aggression’

It scrambled aircraft in response to a record incursion by 38 Chinese jets

Taiwan on Saturday hit out at China’s “military aggression” and said it had scrambled aircraft in response to a record incursion by 38 Chinese aircraft in two waves on Friday.

Reports on Friday had initially said China’s military had sent 25 aircraft, coinciding with China’s October 1 National Day, towards Taiwan. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday a further 13 aircraft, in a second wave, had also entered the Air Defence Identification Zone.

The first incursion included 18 J-16s, four Su-30s, two nuclear H-6 bombers and one anti-submarine aircraft. The later incursion had 10 J-16s, 2 H-6s and an early warning aircraft. The Ministry said another incursion was reported on Saturday of 20 aircraft. Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang was quoted as saying by Reuters that China had been “wantonly engaged in military aggression, damaging regional peace”.

The incursions on Friday and Saturday followed China on September 23 sending 19 aircraft into the ADIZ.

China’s signalling

Beijing has in the past used its air force incursions as a form of signalling. The September 23 incident coincided with Taiwan saying it had submitted an application to join the 11-nation CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) trade deal, days after China said it had formally applied to join the Pacific pact. Beijing previously also dispatched fighters to coincide with visits of U.S. diplomats to Taiwan.

The latest show of force came on China’s National Day and ahead of the October 10 National Day to be celebrated by Taiwan, and was aimed at sending a message to both Taipei and Washington. China views Taiwan as its province, although both have been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 when the Kuomintang (KMT) fled to the island.

Tensions across the straits have been growing with Beijing accusing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected for a second term last year, of pursuing “independence”. Prior to the DPP coming to power in 2016, tensions had cooled under the KMT’s Ma Ying-Jeou, who held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015 and backed an economic cooperation agreement that was signed in 2010.

Beijing has increasingly sought to push back against Taiwan’s presence in international bodies and to wean away the few remaining countries that continue to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It has also sought to respond strongly to any moves it sees from Washington, such as the presence of U.S. vessels in the straits, with Taiwan one of the key issues that China and the U.S. have been clashing over.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry last month strongly hit out at Taiwan’s application to join the CPTPP. “There is only one China in the world,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory."

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