- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2022

China in the past two days has sharply increased provocative warplane incursions near Taiwan as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine intensified in Europe.

According to the Taiwan Defense Ministry, a total of 52 military aircraft intruded into the island’s air defense zone on Sunday and Monday, following a number of such sorties in 2021.

The largest group of flights took place Sunday, Taiwanese officials said, when 39 Chinese military aircraft flew close to the southern end of the island, including 34 J-10 and J-16 fighter jets. Other aircraft included an H-6 bomber and Y-8 and Y-9 electronic warfare planes.

That was followed by another round of 13 aircraft flying near the southern Taiwan coast on Monday, including two H-6 bombers, 10 J-16 fighters and one Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the Taiwanese ministry said on its website.

The flights come amid growing signs Moscow is preparing to launch an invasion of Ukraine with an estimated 100,000 troops across the border with Ukraine. Some are already expressing fears Beijing may step up its own intimidation campaign against Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway part of the country, with the world’s attention focused on Ukraine.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week that he is concerned China is set to invade Taiwan, perhaps after the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Olympics in mid-February.

“Weakness does indeed invite aggression,” Mr.  McCaul told reporters during a call with House Republicans Friday. “This national security threat is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

“My prediction is that you’re going to see Russia invading Ukraine in the next month,” he said. “And I think after the Olympics … China’s gotten so provocative, so aggressive in the South China Sea that you will begin to see [the Chinese Communist Party] invade Taiwan.”

On Sunday, Mr. McCaul said the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year was only inviting more aggression from adversaries like Russia and China.

“The thing is, this is not just about Ukraine, it’s about China. It’s about President Xi [Jinping] and Taiwan. It’s about [Iran’s] ayatollah and the bomb. It’s about North Korea that just fired off two missiles they said were, you know, these — you know, these hypersonic weapons. I think this has broader global ramifications.”

Current and former commanders of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command have warned in congressional testimony that China is making preparations for an attack on Taiwan, the self-ruled island located about 100 miles off China’s southern coast.

Mr. Xi has declared in recent speeches that uniting the island with the mainland is a historic goal of the communist regime in Beijing.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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