China’s military sent 103 warplanes toward Taiwan in a 24-hour period in what the island’s defence ministry called a recent new high.
The planes were detected between 6 am on Sunday and 6 am local time on Monday, the ministry said. As is customary, they turned back before reaching Taiwan. Chinese warplanes fly towards the self-governing island on a near-daily basis but typically in smaller numbers. The Taiwan ministry didn’t explain what time period it meant by a “recent” high.
China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, has conducted increasingly large military drills in the air and waters around Taiwan as tensions have grown between the two and with the United States.
The US is Taiwan’s main supplier of arms and opposes any attempt to change Taiwan’s status by force.
The Chinese government would prefer that Taiwan come under its control voluntarily and last week unveiled a plan for an integrated development demonstration zone in Fujian province, trying to entice the Taiwanese even as it threatens the island militarily in what experts say is China’s long-running carrot and stick approach.
The recent actions may be an attempt to sway Taiwan’s presidential election in January.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which leans toward formal independence for the island, is anathema to the Chinese leadership. China favours Opposition candidates who advocate working with the mainland.
The presidential candidates had no comment Monday on the latest Chinese military activity.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said that 40 of the planes crossed the symbolic halfway point between mainland China and the island.
They included more than 30 fighter jets as well as midair refuelling tanker planes. Taiwan also reported nine Chinese naval vessels in area waters in the previous 24 hours.
The ministry called the Chinese military action “harassment”.