China has flown a record 56 fighter aircraft towards Taiwan, continuing three days of sustained aggressive military posturing against the self-ruled island. Since Friday, China has sent almost 150 aircraft into Taiwan’s defence zone. Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence announced that People’s Liberation Army Aircraft’s (PLAAF) 34 Shenyang J-16 fighter jets, two SU-30 fighter jets, two Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine warfare (Y-8 ASW) planes, two KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft (KJ-500 AEW&C), and 12 Xian H-6 bomber entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
The aircraft all flew sorties in the southwest corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ, just to the northeast of the Dongsha Islands, Taiwan News reported. Since mid-September of last year, Beijing has stepped up its grey-zone tactics by regularly sending planes into Taiwan’s ADIZ, with most instances occurring in the southwest corner of the zone and usually consisting of one to three slow-flying turboprop planes.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades. Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing. China has threatened that “Taiwan’s independence” means war.
On June 1, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to complete reunification with self-ruled Taiwan and vowed to smash any attempts at formal independence for the island.