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China conducts largest air breach of median line to date

While the PLA has said that it is conducting sorties by Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters into Taiwan's ADIZ, Taipei has not recorded this aircraft in its daily ADIZ incursion disclosures. Chinese military experts on the mainland cite this as evidence of gaps in Taiwan's surveillance network. (Chen Chang/VCG via Getty Images)

China conducted its most significant air breach of the median line in the contentious Taiwan Strait on 3 August.

Data from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) shows that 22 People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft, comprising six J-11 and 16 Sukhoi Su-30 multirole fighters crossed the demarcation line and flew briefly towards Taiwan. This is the largest, single-day breach of the median line since Taipei started disclosing PLA flights in its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in September 2020.

The median line in the strait was established in 1955 as a de facto sea border, separating mainland China from Taiwan. The MND has previously described crossings of the median line as “provocative” and damaging to regional peace and stability.

The breach was made a day before China began its four-day live-fire drills around Taiwan on 4 August. The drills are being conducted in response to a visit by the US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to Taipei on 2 August.

A Janes analysis of the 3 August crossing finds that the aircraft came within 65 km of the Taiwanese coastline, near Taoyuan city. The aircraft subsequently returned towards the Chinese mainland on a northwestern heading of 310º.

The second largest number of aircraft to previously cross the median line to date were 12 PLA fighter aircraft. This occurred on 18 September 2020.

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