71 Chinese warplanes and 7 ships deployed towards Taiwan within 24 hours
Within a span of just 24 hours, the Chinese military dispatched a noteworthy 71 planes and seven ships in the direction of Taiwan, according to the latter's defense ministry, as Politico reports.
The move reportedly came in response to passage in Washington of the annual U.S. defense spending bill, which contained provisions designed to assist the island's weapons procurement capabilities and that also provide substantial military grant assistance, according to NBC News.
The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense reported that between the hours of 6 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. the next day, 47 Chinese planes were observed crossing the Taiwan Strait at its median point, a location that has previous been accepted as something of an informal boundary by both countries, Politico noted.
According to NBC News, the assets deployed included J-10, J-11, and J-16 fighters in addition to drones, the movement of which was continuously monitored by Taiwanese ships, planes, and missile systems.
On Sunday, China said that its military had conducted exercises in the airspace and waters around the island over which it has consistently claimed sovereignty and threatened to take by force.
“Escalation and provocation”
China did not hold back in terms of providing an explanation for its military movements, with a spokesperson for the People's Liberation Army declaring, “This is a firm response to the current US--Taiwan escalation and provocation.”
The “escalation and provocation” to which the spokesperson referred was the recent passage of the U.S. defense spending legislation in which China is described as a strategic challenge.
In addition, the massive American defense spending bill includes authorization of military grant aid to Taiwan totaling up to $10 billion over five years, and it also facilitates weapons procurement processes for the island country.
The bill also includes language authorizing bolstered security cooperation with Taiwan as well as broader collaboration with India with regard to defense readiness and technology, according to Politico.
Though the Taiwanese government lauded those provisions, China suggested that they would “cause serious damage to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
White House responds
The Biden administration registered its reaction on Monday to China's bold movements through a statement from a White House National Security Council spokesperson, who said that the president 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.”
“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 statement continued.
China has been engaging in a pattern of escalation in its military shows of strength toward Taiwan, particularly in the wake of an historic, yet controversial, visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last summer.
Japan takes action
The increasingly aggressive conduct on the part of Beijing has prompted a strong response not just from the United States in its defense spending bill, but it also sparked a dramatic change in course from Japan, which recently announced a doubling of its defense spending budget and its decision to develop a counterstrike ability that would allow for retaliatory action on foreign soil, as CBS News reported.
Such a drastic change in policy has received particular global attention given Japan's long history of pacifism and its traditional reliance on the United States for substantial assistance in meeting its security needs.
In explaining his country's rationale for such a shift, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “Unfortunately, in the vicinity of our country, there are countries carrying out activities such as enhancement of nuclear capability, a rapid military build-up and unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force.”
A recent update to the country's National Security Strategy document made specific reference to China as “the greatest strategic challenge ever to securing the peace and stability of Japan” and said that shared borders with Russia, China, and North Korea have created for Tokyo the “most severe and complex security environment since the end of World War II.”
Unsurprisingly, Beijing did not respond approvingly to Kishida's plans, as the Japan Times noted, with the Chinese government announcing that it was “firmly opposed” and “strongly dissatisfied” with the news, but whether growing alignment against its belligerent stance in the region will prompt more action similar to what was observed on Sunday, only time will tell.