A group of 20 Chinese J-16 and J-10 fighter jets have intruded into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in just the last few days, a Taiwanese news service reports.
Citing Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, Taiwan News said 10 Shenyang J-16 and six Chengdu J-10 fighter jets “infringed on Taiwan’s ADIZ,” within the last few days and were then followed by another four J-16s committing the same violation.
Certainly provocations related to a military option for Taiwanese reunification are not new, yet the scope, size and persistence of these most recent incursions may constitute an escalation of concern. Could an invasion or hostile military annexation of Taiwan be imminent?
It certainly would be quite difficult to stop, at least initially, given Taiwan’s proximity to China and the People’s Liberation Army overwhelming military superiority in terms of sheer size.
There are far too many recent Chinese fly-overs, amphibious assault drills, carrier operations and surveillance patrols related to a possible Taiwan takeover to cite, but the Pentagon’s new China report refers to a “greater urgency” when it comes to preparing for a Taiwan contingency.
“The PRC conducting persistent military operations near Taiwan—and training for a Taiwan contingency—likely signals a greater urgency for the PLA to continue to develop and perfect its strategy and capabilities should PRC leaders look to a military option to achieve their objectives,” DoD’s 2021 “Report on Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China” states.
The Taiwanese news report said Taiwan’s Air Force sent Combat Air Patrols up in the air to broadcast radio warnings each time, and was reportedly tracking them with land-based anti-aircraft missiles.
These air patrols are but a small part of China’s regular military activity near Taiwan, which has been escalating in recent months. Earlier this year on China’s National Day on Oct 1, as many as 38 Chinese military aircraft violated Taiwan’s ADIZ and a record-number of 56 planes breached the area Oct. 4.
All of this is part of a broader equation in recent months wherein China has conducted large-scale amphibious warfare training, preparations and drills in the vicinity of Taiwan and sent a two-carrier-strong contingent into the area and nearby South China Sea. Chinese papers make it clear that the country is preparing or “prepared” to subjugate what it refers to as Taiwanese “secessionists.”
There may be a prevailing belief that Taiwan’s defenses may simply be far too insufficient to repel a rapid, large-scale fast military take over, and U.S. forces might not be able to respond or be nearby fast enough, however there are a few reasons why China might not ultimately prevail in a Taiwan take-over military campaign.
The U.S. maintains a large presence in the region, Japan is nearby and is aggressively building up its military capacity and Taiwan does have substantial military capability. Taiwan operates missile systems, fighter jets, and surface-to-air defenses and will also likely have Abrams tanks to repel or slow down an amphibious landing and is upgrading submarines as well.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.