TAIPEI, Taiwan — China sent navy ships and a large group of warplanes, including fighter jets and bombers, toward Taiwan over two days, the island’s defense ministry said on Wednesday, before its annual military exercises aimed at defending itself against a possible invasion.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army sent 38 warplanes and 9 navy vessels around Taiwan, between 6 a.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday. From Wednesday morning until noon time, the military flew another 30 planes, among which included J-10 and J-16 fighters.
Of these, 32 crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary that had been considered a buffer between the island and mainland. Later on Wednesday, another 23 planes crossed the midline.
Taiwan is scheduled to hold the annual Han Guang exercise later this month, in which its military will hold combat readiness drills against preventing an invasion. It will also conduct the annual Wan’an exercises aimed at preparing civilians for natural disasters and practicing evacuations in case of an air raid.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and in recent years has shown is displeasure at political activities in Taiwan by stepping up the number of military planes sent toward Taiwan. In the past year, it has also started sending its navy vessels, as well as drones to circle the waters near the island.
In Tuesday and Wednesday’s maneuvers, the PLA flew H-6 bombers in a large loop to the south of Taiwan, traveling past the island before looping back towards China’s southern coast.
Its largest military drills in recent years were in response to former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August. It fired missiles over the island in a significant escalation and the military exercises disrupted trade lanes in the Taiwan Strait and forced airplanes to reroute their flights.
In April, the PLA held large-scale combat readiness drills in the air and waters around Taiwan in response to the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen meeting with the current U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.