The Taiwanese government reported that 25 Chinese military aircraft entered the country’s air defense identification zone on April 12, 2021, the largest number in a year. It marked the tenth consecutive day of Chinese aerial incursion.
According to the report of the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense, the five different flight groups included 14 Shenyang J-16 and 4 Chengdu J-10 fighter jets, 2 Shaanxi Y-8, 1 KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft as well as 4 Xian H-6 strategic bombers.
(Credit: Taiwan Ministry of National Defense)
As a reaction, the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF) dispatched a combat air patrol for an interception. Radio warnings were issued and the island country’s air defense missile systems were deployed.
The incursions happened a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the “increasingly aggressive actions by the government in Beijing directed at Taiwan.” In an interview with NBC on April 11, 2021, the chief of US diplomacy commented: “We have a serious commitment to peace and security in the Western Pacific, we stand behind those commitments […] and in that context, it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force.”
To which Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian answered on April 13, 2021, urging the United States “not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue […] and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces so as not to subversively influence and damage Sino-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Tensions on both sides of the Strait have grown steadily since the election of Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. A strong advocate for Taiwan’s independence, Tsai was reelected in January 2020. The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew about 380 sorties into the country’s ADIZ in 2020, the highest since 1996. The surge in activity was attributed to the warming of the relationship between the island country and the United States.
Tsai received the support of US President Donald Trump, with over ten arms sales concluded between the two countries throughout his term. Since the day of his election, Joe Biden’s administration committed to continuing assisting Taiwan “in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability.” On April 4, 2021, both the US and China deployed aircraft carrier battle groups into the East and South China Seas, with the voiced intent to defend their interests in the region.