HONG KONG — The Chinese military sent 71 aircraft and seven ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour period, Taiwan’s government said Monday, in its biggest show of force since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island earlier this year.
The aggression toward the self-ruling democracy, which Beijing claims as its territory, came after the Chinese government objected to a U.S. defense spending bill passed on Friday that includes greater support for Taiwan’s military.
The Chinese military action lasted from 6 a.m. Sunday (5 p.m. Saturday ET) until 6 a.m. Monday, and included J-10, J-11 and J-16 fighter jets as well as drones, according to a map released by Taiwan’s defense ministry. The ministry said 47 of the planes crossed the median line, an unofficial boundary in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan said its military was monitoring the situation using planes, ships and land-based missile systems, adding that the Chinese drills were an effort to intimidate the people of Taiwan, who strongly reject Beijing’s claims of sovereignty.
China, which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, said Sunday that it had held joint exercises in the sea and airspace around the island.
“This is a firm response to the current U.S.-Taiwan escalation and provocation,” Shi Yi, the spokesman for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement on Sunday night.
The $858 billion U.S. defense spending bill provides Taiwan with up to $10 billion in military grant assistance over five years and accelerates the weapons procurement process for the island, with which Washington has unofficial relations. While Taiwan welcomed the measure, China said some of the provisions would “cause serious damage to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
China has stepped up its military harassment of Taiwan in recent years, sending planes or ships toward the island almost daily. Its planes have crossed the median line more regularly and in greater numbers since the visit by Pelosi in August. Like other visits by foreign officials, Beijing viewed the trip as de facto recognition of Taiwan’s independence and the Chinese government responded with large-scale live-fire military drills.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed.