China has threatened or entered into Taiwan’s airspace 46 times in the past nine days, the island’s defence ministry said, as Beijing ratchets up pressure on the island it considers part of its territory.
An aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army infringed on the island’s air defence identification zone at altitudes of 2,300 metres (7,545 feet) and 9,000 metres (29,527 feet) on Thursday in what it described as “provocative” actions.
The ministry said on Twitter it suspected the plane was a Yun-8 anti-submarine aircraft and broadcast radio warnings, scrambled fighters, and deployed anti-aircraft missile systems in response.
The latest incident brings the total number of incidents over the last nine days until September 24, to 46, news channel SETN reported, citing the ministry.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu urged Beijing to “return to the civilised international standards” after a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman openly rejected a maritime boundary in the Taiwan Strait – the so-called median line – that had largely been respected. The official said there could be no such line because “Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory”.
Tension between China and Taiwan has risen since President Tsai Ing-wen first took power in 2016, but has intensified since she was re-elected in a landslide in January.
Tsai rejects Beijing’s view that Taiwan – self-ruled for 70 years and one of the region’s most vibrant democracies – is part of “One China”.
The United States’ more assertive positioning on Taiwan, amid a sharp deterioration in its relationship with Beijing, has added to the tension.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said incursions were at their most intense at the end of last week as Keith Krach, the US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, arrived on the island to meet Tsai and attend a memorial service for former President Lee Teng-hui.
Krach was the most senior official from the US State Department to visit the island in 40 years.