TAIPEI – As many as 25 Chinese military aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers, stormed Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) Monday. However, Taipei military analysts suspect the maneuver was actually a simulation of an attack on an American carrier.
The incursion of 25 military aircraft coincided with the presence of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Combat Group in northern Philippines, and came hours after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated Washington’s “serious commitment” to Taiwan and its defense.
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Beijing’s military flights are concentrated almost daily around the southwest of ADIZ Taiwan – near the Bashi Strait and the entrance to the South China Sea – increased further on Monday when 14 J-16 fighters and four H-6K heavy bombers were among the 25 aircraft. PLA which penetrates the air zone between Taiwan and Pratas Island.
The Chinese aircraft operation, which was the largest single-day incursion since record-keeping began by Taipei, brings to a total of 76 aircraft that have invaded Taiwan’s ADIZ since records began.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported PLA combat aircraft strikes numbering 81, 40 and 54 during January to March.
Chieh Chung, a researcher at the Association of Strategic Foresight in Taipei, said the PLA had placed further emphasis on “actual combat training” and saw the Bashi Strait as an important strategic location providing access to the Western Pacific, where it could then launch attacks on mainland US.
Chieh said to CNA, Taiwanese government-funded media, that it is natural for Chinese military operations to increase in frequency off southwestern Taiwan.
Public ship tracking data placed USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Combat Group in the northern Philippine island of Luzon on Monday. Chieh theorizes that the PLA Air Force may have taken the opportunity to subject the US carrier to a simulated attack.
The tracking data also showed the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group further afield in the South China Sea, where US Navy assets have been conducting joint exercises over the weekend.
The analysis was also shared by Su Tzu-yun, a senior fellow at the National Defense and Security Research Institute supported by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. Su, pointing to each of the J-16’s 15 tonne anti-ship missile payloads, said; “PLA operations are aimed at US carrier battle groups”.
Financial Times reported a similar simulated attack in January, when the Chinese military dispatched a total of 28 warplanes to Taiwan over the weekend of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Also read: A group of 25 Chinese military aircraft attacks ADIZ Taiwan
Su, who is an adviser to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, has identified a pattern of PLA air operations around Taiwan. “They tend to jump amid perceptions of improving US-Taiwan relations,” he said.
That could include US Secretary of State Blinken’s statement on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday Washington time, when he said China‘s invasion of Taiwan “would be a serious mistake”.
Meanwhile, Chinese state media linked Monday’s PLA operation to the State Department’s new guidelines for interaction between US and Taiwanese officials.