On Sunday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sent 39 warplanes on a flight path towards Taiwan in its latest act of military aggression against the small island nation.
As reported by ABC News, the Chinese formation which departed on Sunday night is already the largest group of warplanes sent to Taiwan in the new year. Among the aircraft were 24 J-16 fighter jets and 10 J-10 jets. Other aircraft in the formation included those designed for electronic warfare.
On the same day, two American aircraft carriers – the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Carl Vinson – sailed through the South China Sea, engaging in anti-submarine, air and combat readiness operations.
In response to the Chinese aggression, Taiwan scrambled jets of its own and tracked the movements of the PLA formation via radar. While Chinese warplanes flying near Taiwan has become an almost daily occurrence, the sheer size of this particular group was unusual; the previous largest PLA formation to buzz Taiwan, back in October, consisted of 56 aircraft.
Following a civil war between China and Taiwan in 1949, the island has claimed independence from the mainland, while the larger country maintains that the island is still part of Chinese territory. Tensions rose higher following Taiwan’s 2016 presidential election, in which Tsai Ing-wen, who took a more hawkish stance on China than his predecessor, was elected. China responded by cutting off prior communication channels with the government of Taiwan.