(Al Jazeera) China has made its second-largest incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone this year, as Taipei signalled it planned to deepen security ties with the United States.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said that 30 Chinese military aircraft, two-thirds of them fighter jets, entered the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday and that it had scrambled its own air force and deployed air defence missile systems in response.
The incursion was the biggest since January when Beijing sent 39 aircraft into the ADIZ. Earlier this month, it sent 18 warplanes into the area.
Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the island.
In recent months, the US has accused China of ratcheting up tensions across the Taiwan Strait, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken singling out aircraft incursions as an example of “increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity”.
Although the US has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island’s most prominent international supporter and supplier of weapons, and follows what it calls a policy of “strategic ambiguity“.
Following the latest incursion, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday said there were plans for “cooperation” between the Taiwan military and the US National Guard.
Meeting visiting US Senator Tammy Duckworth at her office in Taipei, Tsai noted that Duckworth was one of the main sponsors of the Taiwan Partnership Act.
The legislation has received bipartisan support in the US Congress, although it has yet to become law.
“As a result, the US Department of Defense is now proactively planning cooperation between the US National Guard and Taiwan’s defence forces,” Tsai said, without elaborating.
Taiwanese media has previously reported that Taiwan could partner with Hawaii’s National Guard for the programme.
“We look forward to closer and deeper Taiwan-US cooperation on matters of regional security,” Tsai added.
Duckworth, a Democrat, said she was visiting to reiterate that her country stands with Taiwan, and that there was “tremendous” support for the island from US legislators.
Last year, Taiwan recorded 969 incursions by Chinese warplanes into its ADIZ, according to an AFP news agency database, more than double the roughly 380 carried out in 2020.
So far in 2022, Taiwan has reported 465 incursions, a near 50 percent increase from the same period last year, AFP said.
The increasing activity is adding to pressure on Taiwan’s air force, which on Tuesday suspended flight training of new pilots after reporting its second fatal accident this year.
The defence ministry said the AT-3 jet crashed during a training mission from the southern Gangshan airbase, and the body of the 23-year-old pilot had already been found.