Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Saturday China had sent eight bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets to its air defense identification zone just southwest of the island. The ministry said on Sunday China had sent 16 more military planes of various types to the same area.
The ministry said Taiwan had responded by climbing fighters, broadcasting warnings on the radio and “deploying anti-aircraft missile systems to monitor activities.”
There was no immediate comment from China on Sunday.
The overflights were part of a long-running model of raids aimed at pressuring President Cai Ying-Wen̵
They follow in the footsteps of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, underscoring the island’s enduring stance in a number of differences between the countries, which also include human rights, trade disputes and recent questions about China’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Biden administration has shown little sign of easing pressure on China on such issues, although it is seen as conducive to a return to more civil dialogue.
A State Department statement on Saturday said Washington would continue to deepen ties with Taiwan and ensure its protection from Chinese threats, while supporting a peaceful solution to the problems between the countries.
In another sign of support for Taiwan, the de facto ambassador to the island of Washington, Xiao Bi-him, was invited as a guest at Biden’s inauguration.
And in a recent blow to China, the outgoing ambassador of the Trump administration to the UN wrote on Twitter that it was time for the world to oppose China’s efforts to exclude and isolate Taiwan, provoking sharp criticism from Beijing.
Ambassador Kelly Kraft accompanied the tweet with his photo in the hall of the UN General Assembly, where the island is banned. She was carrying a handbag with a stuffed Taiwanese bear protruding from it, a gift from Taiwan’s representative in New York, Ambassador James Lee.
Taiwan and China split amid a civil war in 1949, and China said it was determined to bring the island under its control if necessary. The United States shifted diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but is legally required to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself and that the self-governing democratic island enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington.
Tsai is trying to boost the island’s defenses by buying billions of dollars in US weapons, including modernized F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, missile systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting both ships and ground targets. It also boosted support for Taiwan’s local arms industry, including launching a program to build new submarines to counter China’s ever-growing naval capabilities.
China’s heightened threats are coming as economic and political motives bear fruit, prompting it to organize war games and send fighter jets and reconnaissance planes to the island of 24 million people almost daily.