Explained: Latest escalation in tension between China and Taiwan

China could stage a full-scale invasion of Taiwan by 2025. That’s the warning Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng shared with the country’s parliament on Wednesday. Taipei-Beijing relations have been strained for years, but the latest escalation has come from a series of air raids by the Chinese military.

In the past four days, Taiwan has reported the unauthorized entry of around 150 planes, the first of which coincided with China’s National Day celebrations on Friday. Taiwan calls them attempts to harass the island, which Beijing claims as its own. Taiwan, however, sees itself as a sovereign nation.

Developments in the Indo-Pacific region are watched with suspicion by the international community. Neighbors in the region like Japan and Australia have called on the two countries to resolve tensions through diplomacy, while the United States has condemned China’s actions.

What happened?

The sequence of incursions, according to the Ministry of National Defense of Taiwan, is as follows:

October 1: 38 PLA planes flew southwest of Taiwan in two sorties. The planes involved were 28 J-16s, four SU-30s, four H-6s, one Y-8 ASW and one KJ-500. The J-17 and SU-30 fighter jets involved are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

October 2: Taiwan reported that 39 Chinese Air Force planes flew over its air defense zone in two waves. The first batch of 20 planes (14 J-16, four SU-30 and two Y-8 ASW) flew in an area near the Pratas Islands, while the second group of 12 J-16, six SU-30 and one KJ -500 AEW & C flew into the Bashi channel. The channel separates Taiwan from the Philippines, and is an intergral waterway that connects the Pacific with the disputed South China Sea.

October 3: Saturday, the Asian giant once again flew 16 military planes to Taiwan. This included eight J-16s, four SU-30s, two Y-8 ASWs, and two KJ-500 AEW & Cs.

October 4: The third incursion was larger and included 56 planes of the People’s Liberation Army. Taiwan said the planes flew over the island’s southwest coast at a distance of 200 to 300 kilometers. The incursion took place in two batches. One consisted of four J-16s, while the other consisted of 34 J-16s, two SU-30s, two ASW Y-8s, two KJ-500 AEW & C and 12 H-6.

October 5: A PLA Y-8 ASW An additional incursion was reported on Tuesday.

China’s continued breakthrough of the air defense zone is seen as a tactic to test the capabilities of Taipei’s defense forces. It should be noted that none of the incursions took place in Taiwan’s airspace. The breach occurred over the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). While a country’s airspace is internationally recognized by law, its air defense zone is a self-proclaimed region that is monitored by the country’s military for defense purposes.

Reactions

In response, Taiwan said they are reviewing the plan for additional military spending worth $ 8.6 billion over the next five years. The budget is for homemade weapons, including missiles and warships.

The United States, a close ally of Taiwan, has condemned the incursions. However, US President Joe Biden said he had spoken with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. “I spoke with Xi from Taiwan. We agree… we will respect the Taiwan agreement, ”he said. “We’ve made it clear that I don’t think he should do anything other than stick to the deal.”

The Taiwan Accord refers to the understanding between the United States and China, through which Washington has established diplomatic relations with Beijing and not Taipei, but maintains a strong and informal relationship with Taiwan.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi expressed hope that China and Taiwan resolve the issue through direct dialogue. .

Australia, meanwhile, has taken a stronger stance while expressing concern over increased air incursions from China.

“The settlement of disputes over Taiwan and other regional issues must be achieved peacefully through dialogue and without threat or use of force or coercion,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told The Guardian. from the country.

The statement comes weeks after Australia signed a defense pact with the United States and the United Kingdom. The pact, known as AUKUS, will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines with American technology, and is widely seen as a measure to counter China’s growing influence in the region.