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Chinese military aircraft overfly Taiwan's airspace

J-10 fighter aircraft of China, similar to those pictured in early January, were among 15 warplanes flying through Taiwan's airspace over the weekend. Photo courtesy of People's Republic of China Defense Ministry
J-10 fighter aircraft of China, similar to those pictured in early January, were among 15 warplanes flying through Taiwan's airspace over the weekend. Photo courtesy of People's Republic of China Defense Ministry

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Fifteen Chinese aircraft entered Taiwanese airspace over the weekend in a show of force regarded as a test of President Joe Biden's foreign policy resolve.

While over 380 Chinese military flights into the island's air defense identification zone were recorded in 2020, Saturday's incursion involved eight Chinese bombers, four fighter planes and an anti-submarine aircraft.

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Sunday's operation included 12 fighter planes, two anti-submarine planes and a reconnaissance plane.

China regards the island of Taiwan -- independent since 1949, a U.S. ally and formally known as the Republic of China -- to be a breakaway province.

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"Airborne alert sorties had been tasked, radio warnings issued and air defense missile systems deployed to monitor the activity," a notation on the Republic of China defense ministry's website read on Monday.

The United States recently increased its presence in the South China Sea, separating the two countries, with visits from carrier strike groups. The strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS John C. McCain entered the area over the weekend.

On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated China's stance, saying, "China's position on the Taiwan question is consistent and clear. There is but one China in the world, and the Taiwan region is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory.

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"China is determined in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposing 'Taiwan independence' and interference by external forces," Lijian said.

He was also critical of the U.S. presence in a briefing on Monday.

"The United States frequently sends aircraft and vessels into the South China Sea to flex its muscles," he said. "This is not conducive to peace and stability in the region."

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A brief statement from the U.S. State Department on Saturday was critical of China, and reinforced U.S. commitment to Taiwan.

"The United States notes with concern the pattern of ongoing PRC [People's Republic of China] attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan," it read in part. "We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan's democratically elected representatives."

"We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific region, and that includes deepening our ties with democratic Taiwan," the statement said.

For the first time since 1979, when the United States entered formal diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China, a representative of Taiwan was present at the presidential inauguration last week.

It was seen as an early show of support for Taiwan by the Biden administration.

The same day, China announced sanctions against outgoing U.S. State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo and 27 other U.S. officials, citing prejudice against China.

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