Taiwan Reports ‘Largest Incursion’ by Mainland China Air Force

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Beijing sent including 14 J-16 (picture) and six J-11 fighters to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), making it the largest incursion on record on June 15. (Image: mnd.gov.tw)

On June 15, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army air force sent combat aircraft into the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the southwestern airspace of Taiwan. The island’s authorities confirmed that there were 28 PLA aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, making it the biggest such incursion by Communist China.

The Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of China — Taiwan’s official name — announced that the incursion involved 14 J-16 and six J-11 fighters, as well as four H-6 bombers and anti-submarine, electronic warfare and early warning aircraft. The Chinese aircraft flew close to the Pratas Islands and some of the fighters flew near the southern tip of the island.

The recent incursion breaks the previous record of 25 aircraft reported in April this year, the ROC Defense Ministry said.  

At the time of writing, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of Defense has not commented on the action, though Beijing has in the past described such missions as necessary to protect the country’s sovereignty and in response to the “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.

The PRC, which drove the Republic of China government to Taiwan in 1949, claims the island as an integral part of its territory. The ROC is not recognized by the United Nations, but is home to a strong democracy and enjoys unofficial relations with most countries.

Flight paths of Chinese air force aircraft released by Taiwan’s Ministry of Defenseon June 15, 2021, show the aircraft flew close to the Pratas Islands, while some fighters flew near the southern tip of the island. (Image: mnd.gov.tw)

Reuters reported that the unprecedented military aircraft incursion with Taiwan came after the G7 summit issued a joint statement on June 13, in which the G7 shows unprecedented support to Taiwan by stressing the importance of stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait and encouraging peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues.

“We reiterate the importance of maintaining a free and open Indo Pacific, which is inclusive and based on the rule of law. We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues. We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions,” said the statement.

The G7 communiqué also targeted the PRC on a series of issues such as human rights persecution, Hong Kong’s autonomy, and the origin of the pandemic.

On the same day of the incursion, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Executive Committee, and Charles Michel, President of the EU Council, held a summit meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at the EU headquarters in Brussels. The meeting was followed by a joint statement, “Towards aRenewed Transatlantic Partnership,” which also emphasized the importance of maintaining stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait and encouraged the use of peaceful means to resolve cross-strait disputes.

In addition, on June 17, Japan’s Ministry of Defense put together the latest draft of the “Defense White Paper,” which for the first time mentions Taiwan. The draft points out that China’s military activities around Taiwan are frequent and Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community. Before that, President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued a joint statement after their meeting at the White House in April, also emphasizing the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) takes part in a meeting next to (on right L-R) US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and President of the European Council Charles Michel, and (on left L-R) Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay on June 12, 2021 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, UK. (Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at a press conference that maintaining stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait has gained a high degree of consensus among the heads of state and leadership of the world’s major democracies, including the United States, Britain, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union, and that stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait is an essential part of building a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”.

In an interview with Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Su Tzu-Yun, a scholar at the Ministry of Defense’s think tank and the Institute for National Defense and Security Studies, analyzed that the large-scale incursion of Taiwan’s ADIZ by the PLA air force, which has “more political than military significance,” perhaps due to Beijing’s strategic adjustment in the face of the changing international situation.

Su pointed out that in the past three months, the joint statements of the U.S.-Japan summit, the U.S.-Korea summit, and the summits of the G7 have all mentioned the importance of peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, and the NATO summit has, for the first time, regarded the PRC as a “systemic challenge.”

Shu Hsiao-huang, an academic at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Studies said Beijing’s “war-wolf” diplomacy and incursion of Taiwan have been ongoing for years, in which the Chinese Communist Party uses military intimidation and propaganda to try to get the self-ruled island to accept Beijing’s rule.

A senior U.S. administration official told Reuters that the U.S. will continue deepening our unofficial security relationship to ensure Taiwan has sufficient capabilities to defend itself.

“China’s increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation.”