BEIJING (Bloomberg): China sent the biggest sortie of warplanes toward Taiwan in more than seven weeks after a US lawmaker defied a Chinese demand that she abandon a trip to the island.
Twenty-seven Chinese aircraft, including eight J-16 fighter jets, entered Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone Sunday (Nov 28) according to a statement from the Ministry of National Defence in Taipei.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu wrote in a post on the ministry’s Twitter account that the "coercive action is obviously meant to bring #Taiwan to its knees & keep us away from democratic partners.”
"But make no mistake: We’ll never bow to #CCP pressure. Never, never, never!” said Wu, who is among three leading Taiwanese figures sanctioned by Beijing for what it says are separatist activities.
The Y-20 aerial refuelling tanker was sighted for the first time in a sortie by China, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported, citing the Defence Ministry. The plane, which flew its maiden flight in 2019, can carry about 60 tonnes of fuel.
The deployment of warplanes was the largest since Oct 4, when People’s Liberation Army aircraft conducted a record 56 flights near Taiwan just after China held National Day celebrations to mark the 72nd anniversary of the People’s Republic.
The latest flights come after a group of US lawmakers including Elissa Slotkin visited Taiwan as part of a trip that included stops in Japan and South Korea. Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, said she had received "a blunt message” from the Chinese Embassy urging that she cancel her trip.
When a separate group of US legislators arrived in Taiwan on an American military plane earlier in November, China’s military said it conducted joint operations in the Taiwan Strait in response to "the erroneous words and deeds of relevant countries on the Taiwan question.”
A group of lawmakers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia arrived in Taiwan Sunday and are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen Monday at 10am, Apple Daily reported, citing the Presidential Office. They’ll also attend a parliamentary forum on Thursday and Friday.
China earlier downgraded ties with Lithuania because the Baltic nation let Taipei set up a representative office under the name of Taiwan.
China has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which asserts the island is a de facto sovereign nation awaiting wider international recognition and not part of Chinese territory, as Beijing claims. Still, the Taiwan government has avoided a formal declaration of independence that could trigger a war.