China accused of largest incursion into Taiwanese airspace as US-Philippines South China Sea military drills begin

Taiwan has accused the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of its largest incursion of the nation’s air defense zone with jets and nuclear-capable bombers, as joint US-Philippines military drills begin in the South China Sea.

The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense released a statement on its website on Monday, claiming 25 PLA planes violated the island’s air defense identification zone. 

Among the planes were 14 Shenyang J-16 strike fighters, four Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter planes and four Xian H-6 bombers, capable of carrying a nuclear payload, the ministry said. 

Taiwan responded by tracking the planes with anti-aircraft missile monitoring and sending radio warnings demanding China leave the airspace.

Beijing has for decades considered Taiwan part of China’s territory, while the Taiwanese government – supported by Western states – considers the island an independent nation.

Just a day earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC that America has “a serious commitment to Taiwan being able to defend itself.” The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised Blinken’s remarks as a commitment to “sustaining peace and security in the Western Pacific.”

The incursion complaint comes as joint military exercises from Philippines and US naval vessels kick off in the South China Sea.

Also on US & Philippines launch ‘Balikatan’ war games amid heightened South China Sea tensions

The pair are holding military exercises, scaled back this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, for two weeks starting on Monday. The war games will see the two forces simulate a series of military drills, although no face-to-face or ground exercises will take place.

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