On 12 April, Taiwan noted a record-size incursion into its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). No less than 25 aircraft entered the zone including Chengdu J-10 Fighters, Shenyang J-16 Fighters, Xian H-6 bombers, Shaanxi Y-8 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) planes and one Shaanxi KJ-500 AEW&C aircraft. This marks the largest incursion recorded this year and comes as part of an intensification in Chinese sorties in recent weeks. 26 March saw the previous quantity-record-holding intrusion into Taiwan’s ADIZ by 20 planes and between then and 12 April large incursions by over a dozen craft were not uncommon.
Taiwan’s response was usual with the island scrambling jets and placing ground-based air defense systems on alert. Nevertheless, being forced to respond in this way is placing a much greater strain on Taipei’s platforms and pilots than on Beijing’s, as the PLAAF is much larger.
The record-breaking intrusion came just a day after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken delivered a warning to China reminding that the US is committed to defending the Taiwan. As the State Department eased restrictions on meetings between US and Taiwanese officials, the Chinese Foreign Ministry furthermore warned the US to not “play with fire” on 13 April. On this day, more Chinese aircraft flew into Taiwan’s ADIZ once again although this time they numbered only five.
The recent escalation comes amidst growing tensions between China and its other neighbors. Notably, the Whitsun reef crisis is leading to deteriorating relations between China and the Philippines which have accused China of sending its “maritime militia” to Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea, chasing away Philippine vessels in the area and of building structures on Whitsun reef. While China downplayed the issue as “hyped-up”, the US expressed concern and reaffirmed its commitment to the defense of the Philippines.
Two weeks ago, further north, two Chinese vessels entered waters near the Japanese-administrated Senkaku islands which are also claimed by the PRC.