Taiwan Detects 21 Chinese Military Aircraft, 17 Cross Median Line of Taiwan Strait

Tensions escalate as Taiwan detects 21 Chinese military aircraft, raising concerns about potential conflicts as Lai Ching-te prepares to take office as Taiwan's next president.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Taiwan Detects 21 Chinese Military Aircraft, 17 Cross Median Line of Taiwan Strait

Taiwan Detects 21 Chinese Military Aircraft, 17 Cross Median Line of Taiwan Strait

On Saturday, Taiwan's defense ministry detected 21 Chinese military aircraft around the self-ruled island, with 17 of them crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait. The aircraft included J-16 fighter jets, Y-8 medium-range transport aircraft, and drones. Taiwan's armed forces monitored the activities and responded accordingly.

This show of force by China comes just a month before the May 20 inauguration of Taiwan's incoming president, Lai Ching-te. Lai, who won the presidential election in January, is seen by Beijing as a "dangerous separatist" despite moderating his views on Taiwan independence in recent years.

Why this matters: The incident highlights the escalating tensions between Beijing and Taipei, as China continues to ramp up military pressure on Taiwan. It also raises concerns about potential conflicts in the world as Lai Ching-te, viewed unfavorably by China, prepares to take office as Taiwan's next president.

The median line of the Taiwan Strait has served as an unofficial buffer zone, but the Chinese military has increasingly sent aircraft and warships across it since former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August 2022. China has been sending warplanes and naval vessels around Taiwan on a near-daily basis, which experts say is a form of "grey-zone harassment" to exhaust Taipei's armed forces.

The highest number of Chinese aircraft detected around Taiwan so far this year was 36 in a single 24-hour period in March. Last year's record was set in September when Beijing's military sent 103 aircraft, with 40 crossing the median line.

The latest show of force also comes a day after China activated two new aviation routes close to Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Taiwan's Civil Aviation Administration protested the move, saying it increased new, threaten flight safety risks.

Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have been escalating under the administration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who does not acknowledge China's claim over Taiwan. China regards the self-ruled island as part of its territory and has vowed to reunify it, by force if necessary.

"The Taiwan armed forces are closely monitoring the situation and have dispatched appropriate assets to respond," Taiwan's defense ministry said in a statement regarding the latest Chinese military activity. As Lai Ching-te prepares to assume the presidency, the cross-strait tensions show no signs of abating, with China's military pressure on Taiwan expected to continue or even intensify in the coming months.

Key Takeaways

  • Taiwan detected 21 Chinese military aircraft, 17 crossing the median line.
  • Tensions escalate as Taiwan's incoming president Lai Ching-te is seen as a "dangerous separatist" by China.
  • China has been increasing military pressure on Taiwan, including near-daily flights across the median line.
  • China activated new aviation routes near Taiwan's outlying islands, raising flight safety concerns.
  • Tensions are expected to continue or intensify as Lai Ching-te prepares to assume the presidency.