25 Chinese warplanes flew into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), the largest incursion since the island first started reporting such activity in September 2020. The aircraft involved were 14 J-16 fighter jets, 4 J-10 fighter jets, 4 H-6K bombers, 2 Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft and a single KJ-500 warning and control aircraft. Taiwan's Ministry of Defense stated that it used its own fighter jets and missile systems to monitor the Chinese activity with radio warnings issued.
Such incidents are hardly rare and Chinese warplanes have been known to cross the sensitive median line unofficially separating the airspace of the island and the mainland. What makes Monday's incident notable is the sheer number of Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft involved. The scale and frequency of Chinese aerial activity has grown since the beginning of 2021 and most of it has been concentrated in the northern end of the South China Sea. January was a particularly busy month with a steady uptick in Chinese sorties as the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group sailed through the region. It was reported that PLAAF aircraft conducted mock attack runs on the American ships.
Between late February and most of March, Chinese aerial activity in Taiwan's ADIZ remained consistent, though relatively small scale, usually involving no more than one or two aircraft. That changed towards the end of March with 20 Chinese aircraft flying into Taiwan's ADIZ on March 26. In April, 10 or more warplanes also flew into it on at least three occasions ahead of Monday's incident. Last week also saw the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escorts operating east of Taiwan at the same time PLAAF aircraft were airborne to the west of the island.
All of this activity has heightened fears of a military clash. Taiwan's Pratas Island is viewed as being especially vulnerable due to its isolation and 500 Taiwanese marines have reportedly been deployed there. China still considers Taiwan a rogue province that will inevitable be reunified and it has reserved its right to use all measures to achieve that goal including the use of military force. Invasion was once viewed as unlikely but Beijing has continued to build up its capabilities to carry out such an operation. On top of building new aircraft carriers, landing ships and other naval vessels, it has continued to modernize the rest of its military, also introducing state-of-the-art indigenous weapons systems such as the J-20 stealth fighter jet.