The United States accused China of “provocative military activity,” on Sunday after it flew dozens of military planes into Taiwan’s airspace.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry tweeted that 16 fighter jets had entered it’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday. This came after it said that 39 military aircraft — 20 during the day and 19 more at night — had encroached its airspace on Saturday.
This followed Friday’s incursion by 38 Chinese planes, which Taiwan said was the largest by Chinese military aircraft to date. Friday’s activity came as celebrations were held on the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Sunday that the United States was “very concerned” by what he called China’s “provocative military activity near Taiwan.” He added that it was “destabilizing, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability.”
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” he said.
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China has been sending military planes into the area south of Taiwan on a frequent basis for more than a year in an apparent effort to step up military and political pressure.
The ADIZ is the type of airspace that many countries define around their territories as a way to monitor air traffic but is not recognized by international law.
Beijing views Taiwan as an illegitimate breakaway province which is part of its territory. When the civil war in between the communists and nationalists ended in 1949 with the former triumphant, the latter set up a rival government in Taipei.
The increased air activity comes against the backdrop of strained relations between Washington and Beijing. The world’s two largest economies have been sharply at odds over a raft of issues including cybersecurity, human rights and trade.
Price said U.S. commitment to Taiwan was “rock solid” and Washington will continue to assist Taipei in “maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability.”
There has been no comment from Beijing about sending the jets toward Taiwan, but the Global Times, a state-run newspaper and website, reported on the incursions on Sunday.
“This has consecutively broken the previous record of the scale of exercises in this area,” it said in editorial, adding that Taiwanese authorities “were shocked once again.”
Beijing has previously said such flights protect the country’s sovereignty and are aimed against “collusion” between Taipei and foreign forces.
Yuliya Talmazan is a London-based journalist.