TAIPEI, June 8 (Reuters) – Taiwan activated its defense systems on Thursday after 37 Chinese military aircraft were reported to have flown within the island’s air defense zone.
China, which democratically views Taiwan as its own territory, has regularly flown its air force in the skies near the island for the past three years, though not in Taiwan’s territorial airspace.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had spotted 37 Chinese air force planes, including J-11 and J-16 fighter jets and nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, flying over its southwestern corner since 5 a.m. (2100 GMT Wednesday). Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ.
The ADIZ is a wide area Taiwan monitors and patrols to give its forces more time to respond to threats.
The ministry said in a statement that some Chinese aircraft flew to the southeast of Taiwan and crossed the western Pacific to conduct “air surveillance and long-range navigation training”.
Taiwan sent its aircraft and ships to monitor and activated land-based missile systems, using its standard terminology for how it responds to such Chinese actions.
China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China completed joint air patrols with Russia in the western Pacific on Wednesday, following flights earlier in the day over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea.
Laura Rosenberger, head of the American Institute in Taiwan, which manages the unofficial relationship between Washington and Taipei, is visiting Taiwan this week.
On Monday, he told Taiwanese media that the US has an enduring interest in preserving stability in the Taiwan Strait and that the US will continue to arm the island, a source of constant friction in Sino-US relations.
In April, China held military exercises around Taiwan following Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the United States.
Taiwan’s government rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.
Ben Blanchard reports; Editing by Tom Hogue and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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