Tensions Soar as 68 Chinese Warplanes and 10 Navy Ships Surround Taiwan

The Shandong, one of China’s two operational aircraft carriers, was initially detected southeast of Taiwan- Getty Images

Taipei, Taiwan – Escalating tensions between China and Taiwan have reached a critical point as dozens of Chinese warplanes and 10 naval vessels were detected circling the self-ruled island. The latest developments come after Taipei authorities issued warnings about Beijing’s extensive air and sea drills in the Western Pacific.

China has long claimed Taiwan as part of its territory, and relations between the two have been strained since President Tsai Ing-wen, with a stance favoring independence, assumed office in 2016. In response to her presidency, Beijing has increased both military and political pressure on Taiwan.

In a statement, Taiwan’s defense ministry revealed that 68 Chinese aircraft and 10 naval vessels were observed in close proximity to the island from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning. Some of these military assets were reportedly new routes to conduct joint sea and air training with China’s Shandong aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific.

The Shandong, one of China’s two operational aircraft carriers, was initially detected southeast of Taiwan, approximately 60 nautical miles away. Japanese defense officials also reported the sighting of six ships, including the Shandong, sailing approximately 650 kilometers south of Miyakojima island, east of Taiwan. They further confirmed the deployment of jets and helicopters from the Shandong.

Taipei’s warnings this week highlighted China’s increased “grey zone” activities around the island, accusing Beijing of deliberately raising regional tensions and pressuring Taiwan without outright conflict.

Experts believe that China’s military exercises are geared towards developing and practicing capabilities for a potential takeover of Taiwan. Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at Washington DC’s German Marshall Fund, commented, “We should expect this trend to continue, with growing pressure on Taiwan.”

While China has not officially acknowledged conducting drills in the Western Pacific, its Eastern Theatre Command, responsible for organizing exercises around Taiwan, mentioned that an “aviation unit” had recently carried out training covering thousands of kilometers, although it did not specifically reference Taiwan.

The recent passage of US and Canadian naval ships through the Taiwan Strait further heightened tensions. The US Navy identified the ships as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson and HMCS Ottawa, emphasizing their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The United States and its Western allies have been conducting “freedom of navigation” operations in both the Taiwan Strait and the disputed South China Sea to assert the international status of these waterways, drawing ire from Beijing.

China notably conducted military exercises in April simulating the encirclement of Taiwan following President Tsai’s meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. As the situation continues to unfold, the world watches anxiously, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the mounting tensions in the region.

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