The People’s Republic of China (PRC) sent nearly 70 military aircraft into the Strait of Taiwan on 5 August, part of aggressive, live-fire military exercises China is conducting in the region.

Defence officials in Taiwan, the self-governing island that refers to itself as the Republic of China (ROC), reported the sorties and say via Twitter that 49 of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft crossed the so-called median line of the strait, which serves as an unofficial boundary.

1200px-An_ROC_Airforce_F-16_fighter_jet_shadows_a_PLA_Airforce_Bomber_that_had_approached_the_island_of_Taiwan

Source: Taiwan Military News Agency

A Chinese air force Xian H-6K strategic bomber is shadowed by a Taiwan air force F-16 over the Taiwan Strait in February 2020

“The recent coercion from [the] PRC’s drills around us aimed to change the status quo of [the] Taiwan Strait, violated our sovereignty, and caused tension in the Indo-Pacific region,” the ROC Ministry of National Defence (MND) says in a tweet. “The ROC armed forces seek no escalation, but we succumb to no challenges and respond with reason,” the ministry adds.

The drills were launched following the visit of a high-ranking US official to Taiwan on 2 August. The PRC considers Taiwan its sovereign territory and has long discouraged other countries from engaging in official diplomacy with Taipei.

According to the MND, most of the PLA aircraft involved in the 5 August incursions were fighters, including seven Chengdu J-10s, six Shenyang J-11s, 10 Shenyang J-16s, and 24 Sukhoi Su-30s. Two Xian Y-8 turboprops configured for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare also crossed the median line.

5 AUgust incursion

Source: Taiwan Ministry of National Defence

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence says China sent nearly 70 military aircraft into the Strait of Taiwan on 5 August. US military aircraft were apparently also in the area

ROC defence officials note that Taipei activated defensive anti-air missiles, scrambled combat air patrols to intercept the PRC jets and issued radio warnings.

China routinely sends military aircraft into the Strait of Taiwan, but such events have become increasingly common in recent months according to MND figures. The day after US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, the PLA dispatched around two dozen jets across the median line.

The on-going drills, which include the firing of live missiles into the strait, have prompted the rerouting or cancellation of several commercial flights in the area. Civil aviation regulators in Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand have since urged their carriers to avoid the airspace around Taiwan during the 4 August to 7 August period specified in China’s notice of the exercises.

Additional information on the 5 August incursions was not immediately available. The MND website, to which the ministry’s official Twitter account directed users, was unavailable. Taiwan’s Military News Agency reports that the MND site was offline after being hit by a cyber attack.

Several other ROC offices were also disrupted by similar attacks.

In addition to the military drills, China’s foreign ministry also said on 5 August that the PRC is pulling out of several planned meetings with the USA on military coordination.

“The world must never allow the US to see itself as a ‘world policeman’ or an ‘international judge’,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on 5 August via Twitter. It describes the USA as bullying and strangling other nations “at will”.

The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), which describes itself as an international research organisation tracking and publicising developments in the region, reported on 5 August that several US military aircraft were also flying in the skies just west of Taiwan.

The group, which says it is funded by donations, tracked at least two US Air Force Boeing RC-135 reconnaissance jets, three US Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft, one air force Boeing E-3G Sentry airborne warning and control system, one air force Lockheed Martin U-2S high-altitude reconnaissance jet, as well as six Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers.