China’s military stepped up flights of H-6 bombers near the southeastern tip of Taiwan, triggering air defense forces of the island state, the Taiwan defense ministry said Thursday.
The H-6 bomber incursion is the latest military demonstration by the People’s Liberation Army that also conducted large-scale war games near Taiwan this week and stepped-up propaganda criticizing both Taipei and Washington.
Two days ago, the PLA flew two H-6K bombers — those equipped for conducting long-range missile strikes — into the Taiwan air defense zone, along with several other warplanes and reconnaissance aircraft, including six J-16 jet fighters. The H-6 dispatched on Thursday was not identified by its variant letter.
The Taiwanese ministry said on its website that interceptor aircraft were launched and air defense missile systems were deployed in response to both bomber incursions. The bombers also were warned in radio communications, the ministry said.
The bomber flights come as China carried out large-scale, live-fire war games near Taiwan this week that the state media in Beijing said was directed at growing U.S.-Taiwan bilateral cooperation.
The military flights near Taiwan come amid increased rhetoric from Beijing warning that the collapse of the Afghanistan government and military were indications that the United States would not support Taiwan should the mainland attempt a military takeover.
Earlier this week, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reiterated U.S. commitments to Taiwan and Israel following the chaos in Afghanistan.
“We believe our commitment to Taiwan and to Israel remains as strong as it’s ever been,” he said.
The Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times stated that a war over Taiwan would impose “unthinkable costs for the U.S.”
In response to renewed Chinese saber-rattling and questions about American reliability, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said her country’s “only option is to grow stronger and become more united, strengthening our determination to protect ourselves. It is not our option to do nothing and only rely on others for protection.”
In a related development, the South China Morning Post reported this week that China is building an airport along the coast opposite Taiwan.
The airport will be built on reclaimed land between two islands and, once completed, could put Chinese military aircraft closer to Taiwan across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait.