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Taiwan Detects Record 66 Chinese Aircraft Around Island In 24 Hours

China has in recent years ramped up political and military pressures around Taiwan. (Representational)

Taipei:

Taiwan’s defence ministry said Thursday it had detected 66 Chinese military aircraft around the island in a 24-hour window, a record-high this year, a day after it said Beijing was conducting exercises in nearby waters.

China — which maintains a near-daily military presence around Taiwan — claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory and has said it will never renounce the use of force to bring it under its control.

Thursday’s record comes a day after Taipei spotted Chinese aircraft around the island that it said were headed to the western Pacific for exercises with the PLA aircraft carrier Shandong.

“66 PLA aircraft and seven PLAN vessels operating around Taiwan were detected up until 6 am (2200 GMT Wednesday) today,” the defence ministry said in Thursday’s statement, adding it has “responded accordingly”.

Fifty-six of the Chinese aircraft crossed the sensitive median line bisecting the Taiwan Strait — a narrow 180-kilometre (110-mile) waterway separating the island from China.

An illustration it released showed some of the aircraft came within 33 nautical miles (61 kilometres) of Taiwan’s southern tip.

The year’s previous record was in May, when Beijing sent 62 military aircraft and 27 naval vessels around Taiwan.

That occurred in the middle of war games Beijing launched on the heels of the inauguration of Taiwan President Lai Ching-te, who Beijing regards as a “dangerous separatist”.

Military expert Su Tzu-yun said China’s latest show of force was a reaction to recent political developments, including Washington’s new de facto ambassador to Taiwan meeting with and expressing support for Taipei during a meeting with Lai on Wednesday.

“Beijing puts pressure on Taiwan in order to express its displeasure at the support it enjoys,” said Su of Taiwan’s Institute for National Defence and Security Research.

Defence minister Wellington Koo on Wednesday noted that the Shandong had not passed “through the Bashi Channel”, the area off Taiwan’s southern tip where Chinese ships typically transit en route to the Pacific Ocean.

Instead, it “went further south through the Balintang Channel towards the Western Pacific,” he said, referring to a waterway just north of the Philippines’ Babuyan Island — about 250 kilometres south of Bashi.

Neighbouring Japan on Tuesday confirmed that four PLA navy vessels — including the Shandong — were sailing 520 kilometres southeast of Miyako island.

The Philippines’ military public affairs chief said they had received reports of a China-Russia exercise taking place in the Philippine Sea but did not comment about the Shandong directly.

‘Restricted waters’

China has in recent years ramped up political and military pressures around Taiwan, sending in record-breaking numbers of jets, drones and ships while upping the rhetoric of “unification” being “inevitable”.

Lin Jian, spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reiterated Thursday that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory”.

“The determination and resolve of the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity are unwavering,” he said during a regular press briefing.

The largest number of aircraft ever seen around Taiwan came last September when Beijing sent in 103 warplanes and aircraft.

Experts call these “grey zone tactics”, which stop short of outright acts of war but serve to exhaust the island’s military.

Lai has repeatedly made overtures of dialogue to China, but has been largely rebuffed.

Besides deploying a military show of force, China has also increasingly sent coast guard ships around Taiwan’s outlying islands this year.

On Thursday, four Chinese coast guard ships “sailed into (Taiwan’s) waters” at 7 am, Taipei’s coast guard said, adding that the vessels left after two hours.

Then at 10 am, the four ships “once again sailed in Kinmen’s restricted waters at multiple points, and our patrol boats immediately moved forward to monitor”, and they left around noon.

“So far this year the incursions into waters controlled by our side have reached 31 times,” they said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)