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Taiwan scrambled jet fighters on Feb. 24, 2022, in response to Chinese aircraft entering its air defense identification zone, including eight Chinese J-16 fighters, as shown in this file photo from the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense.

Taiwan scrambled jet fighters on Feb. 24, 2022, in response to Chinese aircraft entering its air defense identification zone, including eight Chinese J-16 fighters, as shown in this file photo from the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense. (Taiwan Ministry of National Defense)

Taiwan scrambled fighter jets Thursday in response to nine Chinese aircraft entering its air defense identification zone, the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense said on its website.

Chinese aircraft have encroached on Taiwan’s air defense zone with increasing frequency during the past year, but Thursday’s sorties come at a particularly fraught time, just hours after Russia launched an invasion into Ukraine.

Taiwan issued radio warnings to the Chinese aircraft and “air defense missile systems deployed to monitor the activities,” the defense ministry said.

Eight J-16 Chinese fighter jets and one Y-8 reconnaissance prop airplane flew over the southwest tip of Taiwan’s air defense zone, according to a map posted on the ministry’s website.

An air defense identification zone is an area of airspace beyond a nation’s territorial boundary over which it maintains air traffic control for the sake of national security.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and must be unified, at some point, with the mainland and under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

Some defense analysts have speculated China could move militarily against Taiwan amid the chaos of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which came after weeks of amassing forces along its border.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday during a security conference in Munich that China was watching the level of support Western nations were offering Ukraine for its defense.

“If Ukraine is endangered, the shock will echo around the world,” Johnson said. “And those echoes will be heard in East Asia, will be heard in Taiwan. People would draw the conclusion that aggression pays, and that might is right.”

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday called for increased surveillance of China’s actions in light of the unfolding Ukraine crisis, saying “all government units must be more vigilant.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday dismissed as “unwise” any linking of the two issues.

“Taiwan for sure is not Ukraine,” she told reporters. “Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China’s territory. This is an indisputable historical and legal fact.”

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.
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