China Sent Nearly 1,000 Military Aircraft Near Taiwan in 2021: Taipei

The Chinese military has sent nearly 1,000 warplanes into Taiwan's air defense buffer zone this year and continues to conduct air and naval exercises targeting the island as well as other foreign military forces in the region, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said in its year-end report.

Senior defense officials in Taipei told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) was approaching the capability to impose a full blockade of Taiwan, a scenario that would pose "a serious challenge and threat" to Taiwan's defenses.

Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said China hasn't renounced the use of force as an option to achieve its goal of seizing the democratic island, which has been autonomous from Beijing for more than seven decades. The Chinese Communist Party's overt "military threats and provocations" are continuing at an unprecedented level, he told the Taiwanese legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee.

The Defense Ministry told lawmakers it had detected more than 940 PLA aircraft in Taiwan's air defense identification zone since the start of the year. The figure is nearly three times that of 2020, when officials estimated there were around 380 total ADIZ incursions.

An ADIZ is self-declared and not regulated under international law. It extends beyond a country's territorial airspace and acts as a buffer for the identification of approaching civilian and military aircraft. Taiwan's neighbors including China, Japan and South Korea all operate their own ADIZs.

Taiwan began publishing details about the near-daily ADIZ intrusions in September 2020. The frequent operations, mostly off to the southwest, take place in the international airspace about 100 to 150 miles from Taipei.

On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said Taiwan's air force had scrambled interceptors against two PLA fighters and a pair of support aircraft. The latest flights brought the number of sorties to 950 as of December 22.

'Gray-Zone' Warfare

Taiwan considers the frequent military maneuvers a form of "gray-zone" warfare, an activity, short of war, that can exhaust the island's vastly outnumbered pilots and limited resources while also causing psychological strain on its public.

Over the weekend, PLA Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning transited the Miyako Strait into the western Pacific and it has been conducting exercises west of Taiwan for the second time this year.

In its report to parliament, Taiwan's Defense Ministry said the PLA was close to achieving its anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capability. In wartime, China's A2/AD strategy envisions a full blockade of the Taiwan Strait and surrounding sea lanes to prevent assistance by foreign military forces, chiefly the United States.

The ministry said Taiwan would conduct active reviews of its arms acquisition to ensure alignment with concepts including asymmetric warfare and power preservation. The former refers to Taiwan's use of affordable, mobile and precise weaponry to strike at PLA vulnerabilities during an invasion scenario, while the latter speaks to the safeguarding of Taiwan's troops and weapons platforms after an initial wave of bombardment.

China Sends Nearly 1,000 Warplanes Near Taiwan
An American-made F-16V fighter aircraft assigned to Taiwan’s Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) performs an aerial maneuver during a squadron commissioning ceremony at Chiayi Air Base on November 18, 2021. In a parliamentary report on December 22, 2021, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the ROCAF had scrambled against more than 940 approaching Chinese military aircraft in 2021, nearly triple the previous year’s number. Military News Agency / Ministry of National Defense, Taiwan