HONG KONG — The Chinese military sent 71 aircraft and seven ships toward Taiwan in 24 hours, Taiwan’s government said Monday, in its biggest show of force since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island this year.
The aggression toward the self-ruling democracy, which Beijing claims as its territory, came after the Chinese government objected to a U.S. defense bill signed into law Friday that includes greater support for Taiwan’s military.
The Chinese military action, which lasted from 6 a.m. Sunday (5 p.m. Saturday ET) until 6 a.m. Monday, included J-10, J-11 and J-16 fighter jets, as well as drones, according to a map released by Taiwan’s defense ministry. The ministry said 47 of the planes crossed the median line, an unofficial boundary in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan said its military was monitoring the situation using planes, ships and land-based missile systems, adding that the Chinese drills were an effort to intimidate the people of Taiwan, who strongly reject Beijing’s claims of sovereignty.
China, which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, said Sunday that it had held joint exercises in the sea and airspace around the island.
“This is a firm response to the current U.S.-Taiwan escalation and provocation,” Shi Yi, the spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, said in a statement Sunday night.
The White House is “concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilizing, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability,” a White House National Security Council spokesman said in a statement Monday.
“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability in line with our long-standing commitments and consistent with our one China policy,” the spokesman added.
The $858 billion U.S. defense bill authorizes up to $10 billion in military grant assistance to Taiwan over five years and accelerates the weapons procurement process for the island, with which Washington has unofficial relations. Taiwan welcomed the measure; China said some of its provisions would “cause serious damage to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
China has stepped up its military harassment of Taiwan in recent years, sending planes or ships toward the island almost daily. Its planes have crossed the median line more regularly and in greater numbers since Pelosi’s visit in August. As it has other visits by foreign officials, Beijing viewed the trip as de facto recognition of Taiwan’s independence, and the Chinese government responded with large-scale live-fire military drills.