Taiwan reported the biggest ever Chinese incursion into its airspace on Monday, saying more than 70 Chinese aircraft including fighter jets entered its air defence identification zone in the last 24 hours.
The Taiwanese defense ministry said the incursions were made by 42 J-10, J-11, J-16 and Su-30 fighter jets as well as two Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft, a KJ-500 early warning aircraft. The ministry added that as many as 43 aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line. The breaching of the median line is a significant step as it is seen as the unofficial buffer between China and self ruled Taiwan.
China has ramped up military activities in recent months, heightening speculation about a possible invasion of the island, which Beijing sees as part of the mainland. China sees the self-ruled and democratically governed Taiwan as a rogue breakaway region that must be united with the mainland. Under Xi Jinping, China has reaffirmed that it will not abandon the possible use of military power to take back the island.
China's latest show of strength in the region came in response to the US reaffirmation of its commitment to boost military assistance to the island state. However, China says its military actions around Taiwan are in response to increasing threat from the US and its allies in the region.
According to senior Taiwanese military officials, Chinese warplanes from several locations across the country were used to carry out the military drills. China called the latest exercise as a "strike drill".
"The troops will take all necessary measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Chinese military's Eastern Theater Command said. The latest air drills followed Chinese Naval exercises by an aircraft carrier group in the Western Pacific near the Japanese shores on Friday.
Taipei said President Tsai Ing-wen will call a high-level national security meeting on Tuesday in the aftermath of the security breach by the Chinese. Observers believe that Taiwan is going ahead with more intensive preparations for a possible war with China to defend its territory. Among the moves mulled are an extension of compulsory military service beyond four months currently.
"The more preparations we make, the less likely there will be rash attempts of aggression. The more united we are, the stronger and safer Taiwan would become," President Tsai said during a military ceremony on Monday, according to Reuters.
Beijing's Unification Agenda
According to Beijing, island's reunification with the mainland is a primary need. China insists that it is the only large nation in the world that is yet to be completely reunified. "Resolving the Taiwan question so as to realise China's full reunification is the irresistible trend of the times, China's greatest national interest, the righteous path to follow and the longing of all Chinese people," Wei said.
Fears over a military move to 'reunify' Taiwan with the mainland have grown in recent years. In fact, such fears had never gone away. Geopolitical analysts have been watching out for signs of a final Chinese resolve to strike for years.