Taiwan jets scramble to warn away Chinese aircraft in its air defense zone

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Taiwan said it scrambled jets again on Thursday to warn away 22 Chinese aircraft in its air defense zone, the second large scale incursion reported this week and the latest sign of tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained in recent years of repeated missions by the Chinese air force near the democratically governed island, often in the southwestern part of its air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.

Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “gray zone” warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwanese forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwanese responses.

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The latest Chinese mission included 10 J-17 fighters, five JH-7 fighter-bombers and two H-6 bombers, as well as electronic warfare, early warning and antisubmarine aircraft, Taiwan’s defense ministry said.

The two Chinese anti-submarine aircraft flew into the Bashi Channel, which separates Taiwan from the Philippines and into the Pacific, before turning back to China on the same route, according to a map the ministry provided.

The rest of the Chinese aircraft flew to the northeast of the Pratas and closer to the Chinese coast.

Taiwan sent combat aircraft to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems monitored them, the ministry said, using standard wording for its response.

On Tuesday, Taiwan said it warned away 29 Chinese aircraft in its air defense zone, the largest incursion reported since late May.

The largest to date this year occurred on January 23, involving 39 aircraft.

There was no immediate comment from China, which has in the past said that such moves were drills aimed at protecting the country’s sovereignty.

China’s military said last month it had conducted an exercise around Taiwan as a “solemn warning” against what it called the island’s “collusion” with the United States.

That came after US President Joe Biden angered China by appearing to signal a change in a US policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan by saying the United States would get involved militarily if China were to attack the island.

China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims. The government in Taipei says it wants peace but will defend itself if attacked.

No shots have been fired and the Chinese aircraft have not been flying in Taiwan’s air space, but in its ADIZ, a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.

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