Taiwan foreign minister says the country ‘very concerned’ China will launch a war against the island at some point.
China has flown 56 fighter planes towards Taiwan in the largest show of force on record, continuing three days of sustained military harassment against the self-governed island.
The first sortie on Monday of 52 planes included 34 J-16 fighter jets and 12 H-6 bombers, among other aircraft, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence. Later, four more Chinese J-16s flew towards the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone a buffer outside a country’s airspace.
The Taiwanese air force scrambled its fighter planes and monitored the movement of the Chinese warplanes on its air defence system, the ministry said.
“We are very concerned that China is going to launch a war against Taiwan at some point, even though the threat may not be imminent at this point,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp broadcast on Monday.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s top China policy-making body, accused Beijing of “seriously damaging the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” with its recent string of larger incursions.
“We demand the Beijing authorities immediately stop its non-peaceful and irresponsible provocative actions,” MAC spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng said in a statement.
“China is the culprit for causing tensions between the two sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and it has further threatened regional security and order,” he added, saying Taiwan “will never compromise and yield” to threats.
China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory and says it will bring the island under its control by force if necessary. It has refused to recognise the island’s government and has increasingly sought to isolate the independence-leaning administration of President Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949, and Beijing opposes Taiwan’s involvement in international organisations. Taiwan announced on September 23 that it had applied join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a week after China submitted its own application to join the trade pact.
Starting last Friday, on China’s National Day, the People’s Liberation Army sent 38 warplanes into the area and 39 aircraft on Saturday, previously the most in a single day since Taiwan began releasing reports on the flights in September 2020. China sent an additional 16 planes on Sunday.
The latest manoeuvres by the Chinese air force bring the total to 814 flights.
The number of sorties into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone had prompted a statement from US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price during the weekend, who warned that China’s military activity near Taiwan risks miscalculation and undermines regional peace and stability.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” the statement said.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded on Monday, saying that the US selling weapons to Taiwan, as well as US ships navigating the Taiwan Strait, was “provocative action that harmed US-China relations.”
“China will take all necessary countermeasures and resolutely crush any ‘Taiwan independence’ plot,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.