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Twenty-eight Chinese military planes flew into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identified Zones (ADIZ) Tuesday — the largest incursion since the self-ruled island began regularly reporting such actions last year, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense .
Tuesday’s flights — which included fighter jets, bombers, and anti-submarine and early warning aircraft — surpassed the previous peak of 25 planes reported on April 12.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, even though the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
While there was no immediate comment from Beijing on Tuesday’s flights, the news comes after the Group of Seven leaders issued a joint statement on Sunday scolding China for a series of issues and underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait — comments China condemned as “slander.”
Taiwan has complained in recent months of repeated missions by China’s air force near the island, concentrated in the southwestern part of its air defense zone near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
The US Federal Aviation Administration defines an ADIZ as “a designated area of airspace over land or water within which a country requires the immediate and positive identification, location and air traffic control of aircraft in the interest of the country’s national security.”
An ADIZ is not the same as sovereign airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from a nation’s shore.
The latest Chinese mission involved 14 J-16 and six J-11 fighters, as well as four H-6 bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, and the anti-submarine, electronic warfare and early warning aircraft, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.
The ministry added that Taiwanese combat aircraft were dispatched to intercept and warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were also deployed to monitor them.
Not only did the Chinese aircraft fly in an area close to the Pratas Islands, but the bombers and some of the fighters flew around the southern part of Taiwan close to the bottom tip of the island, according to a map the ministry provided.
China’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
China has in the past described such missions as necessary to protect the country’s sovereignty and deal with “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, which have no formal diplomatic ties.
China describes Taiwan as its most sensitive territorial issue and a red line the United States should not cross. It has never renounced the possible use of force to ensure eventual unification.