On Monday, China's People's Liberation Army PLA sent 30 aircraft to Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone ADIZ, the same day a U.S. delegation led by Senator Tammy Duckworth arrived on the island for a three-day visit.
Taiwan's Ministry of Defense recorded nine types of People's Liberation Army PLA aircraft, including a rarely-seen jet. This was the highest number of aircraft sent by the PLA since January 23, when 39 aircraft made similar flights, reported the South China Morning Post.
The aircraft included two Su 35 fighters, two KJ 500 early warning and control aircraft, four Y 8 electronic intelligence aircraft, one Y 8 anti-submarine aircraft, six J 16 fighters, eight J-11 fighters, four J-10 fighters and two Su 30 fighters. They entered Taiwan's southwest ADIZ between the Dongsha Islands and the Taiwan island.
According to Chinese state-backed news media Global Times, the aircraft, a majority of which were fighters, also practiced the seizure of air superiority and aerial strikes in the area. This simulation of reunification-by-force was a warning to the U.S. and Taiwan that China could launch a lightning-quick attack in the event of an invasion.
Drills tell the island that if the PLA makes a real move, it will likely be a sudden attack that can put an end to the Taiwan question once and for all, said Zheng Jian, director of the National Taiwan Studies Association.
Taiwan responded by scrambling a combat air patrol, sending radio warnings and deploying defense missile systems to track the PLA planes. This was the first time in recent times that the PLA Air Force Su-35 made a public reappearance. China bought 24 Su 35 s from Russia to deploy for the South China Sea patrol.
The PLA sorties coincide with the drills held by the U.S. Navy in the adjacent waters. U.S. aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Abraham Lincoln reportedly held drills last weekend in waters southeast of Okinawa. The region, according to Chinese experts, is a strategic location if the US militarily intervenes in a possible conflict between the Taiwan Straits.
On Tuesday, Senator Duckworth met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, where the duo discussed the close economic, political, and security relations between Taipei and Washington. The senator told Tsai that she wanted to emphasize our support for Taiwan security. I want to say that it is more than just about the military. Duckworth told Tsai that it was also about the economy.
The visit was not welcomed by China and its embassy in the US and the foreign embassy in Beijing.