Taiwan says 68 Chinese warplanes, 10 vessels detected near island

Taiwan suspects China is conducting drills involving the Shandong aircraft carrier but there has been no confirmation from Beijing.

A J-16 fighter jet in flight
Among the aircraft detected by Taiwan were J-16 fighters [File: Taiwan Ministry of Defence via AP Photo]

Taiwan has said China flew 68 military aircraft and sent 10 navy vessels into areas around the self-ruled island in what appeared to be a second day of military training drills led by the Shandong aircraft carrier.

Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goal, has stepped up military and political pressure on the democratic island in an attempt to reinforce its claim of sovereignty.

“Sixty-eight PLA aircraft and 10 PLAN vessels around Taiwan were detected” by about 6am on Thursday (22:00 GMT on Wednesday), Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said in a statement, referring to China’s army and navy.

The number was a dramatic jump from the previous day when Taipei said it had detected 35 warplanes.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said some of those planes and warships were heading to an unspecified area of the Western Pacific to “conduct joint sea and air training with the Shandong aircraft carrier”.

It said the vessel, one of two operational aircraft carriers in the Chinese fleet, was about 60 nautical miles (equivalent to about 111km) southeast of the island’s southernmost point and heading into the Western Pacific.

Japan also noted the presence of Chinese vessels heading towards the area through the Miyako Strait.

China has not officially commented on any military exercises being conducted in the area.

In recent months, the US and its allies have increased “freedom of navigation” crossings of both the Taiwan Strait and the disputed South China Sea to reinforce that both are international waterways.

For its part, China has been increasing its military operations around Taiwan, condemning what it calls “collusion” between alleged Taiwan independence forces and the US.

Beijing staged military exercises in April to simulate the encirclement of Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

It also conducted days of war games in August 2022 after Nancy Pelosi, McCarthy’s predecessor, visited Taipei.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies