Taunting Taiwan with the power of its arsenal and its potential to close its fist upon the island, Chinese military jets have entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone for three straight days.
On Friday, China sent 38 planes into the zone, which was a record for the number of planes sent to provoke Taiwan. China followed that up on Saturday with 39 planes, according to CNN.
On Sunday, Taiwan reported 16 planes entered the zone, according to U.S. News and World Report.
In recent months, China has stepped up its antagonistic rhetoric and actions toward Taiwan, which it considers to be its territory. Taiwan became a separate nation in 1949 when the former nationalist government took refuge there after losing the civil war to the Communist government.
“Coming on Oct. 1, China’s National Day, it sends a message about Beijing’s determination to claim Taiwan, by force if necessary,” said Adam Ni, an analyst of Chinese military policy, according to The New York Times. “The aim of this is to assert Beijing’s power and show military muscle.”
That claim was underscored by the Global Times, a state-run newspaper, which praised the flights in an editorial.
The flights “clearly and unmistakably displayed China’s sovereignty over Taiwan,” it wrote, adding, “The greater the number of combat planes gathering together, the more it shows that our military is forming a powerful wartime aerial assault force.”
Although China was able to nudge the U.S. into removing formal diplomatic recognition from Taiwan, the United States has maintained strong support of Taiwan through arms sales and economic ties.
On Sunday, the State Department issued a statement deploring China’s hostile maneuvers.
“The United States is very concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilizing, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability. We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” said the statement, posted on the State Department’s website.
“We have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability, and we will maintain our commitments,” the statement continued.
“The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region. We will continue to stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values and deepen our ties with democratic Taiwan.”
Although China’s incursions did not reach Taiwan’s national airspace, a 12 nautical mile limit around the island, it was a significant escalation, leading to concerns of an incident.
“It is very worrying,” said Chieh Chung, a security analyst with the National Policy Foundation in Taipei, according to the Times. “This puts a lot more pressure on our military, and the more they reach into our airspace, the greater the risk of some kind of accident.”
One Taiwanese legislator said China is trying to intimidate its way into getting what it wants.
“The Chinese government is trying to draw a red line for the international community warning them not to support Taiwan,” legislator Wang Ting-yu said, according to the Times.
China is a major threat to the U.S., as well as to Taiwan, according to a recent report by the Rand Corporation.
“China represents the greatest potential risk to U.S. interests if geopolitical dynamics or shifting national interests were to change its military intervention policy,” the report said.
The report said China “has greater resources and, in some areas, capabilities than Russia or any other U.S. adversary. It also has an expanding set of strategic interests and ambitions outside its home region.”
“There are many scenarios that could lead to an increased frequency of Chinese military interventions,” the report warned.
“Such a shift in Chinese decision-making could occur following a sharp deterioration in U.S.-Chinese relations, which would place the two states on opposite sides of an intense militarized rivalry,” the report concluded.