Taiwan’s Defense Ministry announced on Twitter that 18 aircraft from China’s People’s Liberation Army flew into its air defense zone. The ministry said aircraft included six Chinese J-11 fighters, six J-16 fighters and two H-6 bombers. The bombers, accompanied by a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew to the south of Taiwan through the Bashi Channel. The channel separates Taiwan from the Philippines. According to a ministry map, the other aircraft flew over an area to the northeast of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands at the top end of the South China Sea.
There was no immediate comment from China’s Defense Ministry. China has said similar missions were conducted to defend the country’s sovereignty and to counter “collusion” with foreign forces, which some have interpreted as a veiled reference to U.S. support for Taiwan.
The governor of Okinawa, a prefecture in U.S. ally Japan, commented on ongoing tensions over the Taiwan Strait Friday.
“Any escalation of problems over the Taiwan Strait and the contingency of Okinawa being a target of attack must never happen or be allowed to happen.” Gov. Denny Tamaki said. “I call for the Japanese government to always maintain calm and peaceful diplomacy and dialogue to improve its relations with China, while working toward easing U.S.-China tension.”
China flying aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense zone is not a new phenomenon. China has regularly done so for years, including flying 93 aircraft over a three day stretch in October 2021 and flying 39 aircraft in January 2022.
According to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, China’s aircraft is not the only thing Taiwan has to worry about.
“Taiwan is quite literally on the front lines of the PRC’s hybrid warfare, including disinformation, including cyber-attacks,” Blinken said earlier this week. “These are designed to basically distort the information environment and democratic processes.”
Blinken said the U.S. has begun a partnership with Taiwan “to support independent fact-based journalism, to try to build societal resilience to disinformation and other forms of foreign interference.” Disinformation has also been used by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.