Several Chinese aircraft and naval vessels neared Taiwan early Saturday morning, prompting the Taiwanese defense ministry to scrambled fighter jets and ready its missile defense system, officials said.
The Ministry of National Defense for the Taiwan government, officially identified as the Republic of China, said its forces detected over a dozen vehicles operated by China’s military near its island at approximately 6 a.m. Saturday.
“11 PLA aircraft and 3 PLAN vessels around Taiwan were detected by 6 a.m. today,” its government said, prompting officials to send naval vessels of their own and ready land-based missile systems “to respond to these activities.”
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is China’s official designation for the military forces, including naval forces (PLAN) controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The sighting comes as Taiwan previously reported detecting PLA forces nearing its territory on Thursday, Dec. 22, and again Wednesday, Dec. 21.
“[Nine] PLA aircraft and 3 PLAN vessels around Taiwan were detected by 6 a.m.(UTC+8) today. R.O.C. Armed Forces have monitored the situation and tasked CAP aircraft, Navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities,” its government said.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry added: “2 of the detected aircraft (BZK-005 UAV RECCE and Y-8 ASW) had entered Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ, flight paths as illustrated.”
The sighting on Wednesday was the largest, with Taiwan reporting seeing 39 Chinese aircraft and three naval vessels around the island. The instance also prompted an immediate response from Taiwan’s military.
Of the detected aircraft, 30 crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered Taiwan’s southwest and southeast Air Defense Identification Zone.
Taipei’s defense ministry also provided flight paths for the Chinese military vessels, including the identification of the aircraft.
Taiwan did not disclose how many aircraft it sent to respond to these encounters. It has also vowed to defend itself from a potential military invasion by China’s mainland.
China’s mainland often postures its military toward Taiwan, which it recognizes as part of its own sovereign territory, but has become noticeably more aggressive in recent months following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in early August.
Taiwan has its own democratic governing body and makes international trade agreements with several countries that would otherwise choose not to trade with the Communist-controlled Chinese mainland.
While the threat of China potentially launching a military invasion of Taiwan looms, the Biden administration has maintained a “strategic ambiguity” on the island.
As recently as September, President Biden said publicly that the U.S. would interfere with such an invasion and order U.S. troops to defend Taiwan. This is not the official stance of the U.S. and the White House corrected his comments.
Biden also met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and said in November that he did “not think there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.”
The U.S. president also dressed down speculation that a new Cold War with China was developing.
“I absolutely believe there’s need not be a new Cold War,” Biden said. “I’ve met many times with Xi Jinping and we were candid and clear with one another across the board. And I do not think there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.”
The U.S. does not have a defense treaty with Taiwan but it does provide the island with weapons through grants and loans.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed the U.S. sent Taiwan $425 million in an arms package earlier this month.
“This was a package of upgrades on pre-existing sale,” she said on Dec. 9. “We continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, consistent with our long-standing One China policy. So no change there.”
The U.S. and most of the international community officially recognize the One China policy, which denies statehood to Taiwan and says Beijing has sole authority to govern the island.
China’s current posture towards Taiwan comes amid the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s eastern regions, which the Russian government has annexed and also claims it’s Russian territory.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom and Paul Best contributed to this report.