TAIPEI, Taiwan: In its largest sortie in 2022, China sent 39 warplanes towards Taiwan on January 24, amidst tensions over the self-ruled island’s future, and as the U.S. is asserting its presence in the region.
According to Taiwan’s defense ministry, the Chinese formation included 24 J-16 fighter jets and 10 J-10 jets, as well as other support and electronic warfare aircraft.
Taiwan’s air force scrambled its own jets and tracked the Chinese planes on its air defense radar systems, the ministry added.
The U.S. military said two of its carrier strike groups, led by USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln, were sailing in the South China Sea to engage in anti-submarine, air and combat readiness operations.
Taiwan and China separated after the Chinese civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory.
Beijing has used diplomatic and military means to isolate and intimidate Taiwan, but the U.S. has continued to support Taiwan by selling it advanced weapons and fighter planes.
Over the past year and a half, Chinese pilots have been flying towards Taiwan almost daily, with the largest sortie being 56 warplanes on a single day last October.
Tensions have been high since Tsai Ing-wen was elected as Taiwanese president in 2016, with Beijing responding by cutting off previously established communications with the island’s government.
Tsai’s predecessor was friendly to China and had endorsed Beijing’s claim that the two countries are part of a single Chinese nation.