China sent 25 military planes into Taiwanese airspace on Monday, escalating tensions between the United States and Beijing.
The Chinese flight mission included 18 fighter jets, 4 bombers, 2 anti-submarine planes, and an airborne radar plane entering Taiwan’s defensive air zone, an act in violation of Taiwanese sovereignty. The aircrafts' incursion marked the largest operation in Taiwan since it began regular flights over the country in September, according to Taiwan's Defense Ministry.
The air-based military exercises from China come as Beijing ratchets up its pressure by sea, with some U.S. territories open to attack. On Sunday, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning sailed through waters neighboring Taiwan, prompting the USS Mustin to tail the ship until it left the contested territory. In March, some 220 Chinese vessels landed at Whitsun Reef, an area claimed by the Philippines and within one of the U.S. Navy’s defense perimeters. China’s aggressive actions have led top American military personnel to say China may invade Taiwan in the next six years.
China claims Taiwan is within its borders, a claim challenged by the separate democratic governance of Taiwan and support from Washington during dangerous standoffs with China since the Cold War era. Some analysts say the capture of Taiwan by communist forces would mark the end of an American-led world order and that the island is the most dangerous flashpoint in an extended standoff with Beijing.
The Trump administration acted forcefully on the Taiwan issue, lifting sanctions on diplomatic visits to the country, authorizing arms deals for the country’s self-defense, and sending the highest-level cabinet member to Taiwan in decades. Early signs from the Biden administration indicate a similar approach. Under pressure from congressional Republicans, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concern about China's behavior toward Taiwan with senior Chinese officials and has upheld loosened diplomatic restrictions on future island visits. In March, the United States made its first trip to Taiwan by a U.S. ambassador since 1979.