Chinese air force, navy conduct large-scale drill near Taiwan, heightening tensions


China’s air force and navy have initiated a significant drill involving fighter jets, bombers, and warships near the southern and southwestern regions of Taiwan, as confirmed by Taiwan’s defense ministry. The exercise comes amidst China’s persistent claim over Taiwan as its own territory and its continuous incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), exerting heightened military pressure on the self-ruled island.

China previously conducted military maneuvers around Taiwan in August last year and April this year. Since then, China has consistently flown military aircraft across the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which previously served as an informal boundary between the two regions. Beijing has openly stated that it does not rule out the use of force to gain control over Taiwan.

Taiwan’s defense ministry issued a statement on Wednesday, reporting the detection of 32 Chinese air force planes within the island’s ADIZ in the past 24 hours. Among them were four H-6 bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, which flew to the south of Taiwan and into the Pacific Ocean before returning to China. A map shared by the ministry depicted the flight path of these aircraft.

Late on Tuesday, the ministry further revealed that the Chinese air force planes were engaged in joint training exercises with Chinese warships to the south of Taiwan, while four Chinese warships were involved in “combat readiness patrols.” In response, Taiwan deployed its own aircraft and ships to monitor the activities of the Chinese forces. The ADIZ is an expanded area that Taiwan actively monitors and patrols to allow its forces additional time to respond to potential threats.

China has not provided any official comments regarding the ongoing drills or the previous ones reported by Taiwan in recent months. In June, Taiwan reported that eight Chinese warplanes crossed the median line and approached close to the island’s contiguous zone, which is situated 24 nautical miles (44 km) off its coast.

While Taiwan defines its territorial space as extending 12 nautical miles (22 km) from its coast, the government has not reported any instances of Chinese aircraft entering either the contiguous zone or Taiwan’s territorial airspace. Taiwan’s government firmly rejects China’s sovereignty claims and emphasizes that only the people of Taiwan have the right to determine the future of the island.

Preparations are underway for Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang military exercises, set to commence on July 24. The exercises will primarily focus on homeland defense, force preservation, and civil-military coordination. Major General Lin Wen-huang, head of the defense ministry’s joint operations planning section, disclosed that some drills will simulate an attack by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Taiwan’s efforts to safeguard its forces. Notably, one simulated scenario will involve a PLA airborne assault on Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

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