China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone hundreds of times 2020, increasing towards the end of the year, according to reports. The activity has been seen as a sign of high tensions between Beijing and Taiwan.
China sees the latter island nation as a part of its own territory, though Taiwan has pushed back against this.
Heino Klinck, a China military expert and former Pentagon official, has pointed to an increase in the frequency of “PLA intrusions into Taiwan air space” and told the Financial Times: “The PLA has become increasingly threatening and aggressive with the effect of destabilising the entire region.”
On one hand, there are China’s tensions with the US, which also conducts missions in the area including so-called Freedom of Navigation Operations.
According to FT, one Taiwanese official has said: “They are coming partly because the Americans are coming.”
However, there is also China’s need to practice for missions of its own.
Su Tzu-yun, an analyst at the Institute for National Defence and Security Studies think tank, also told the outlet that the south-west corner of Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) could be useful for China regarding submarine warfare.
They said: “It is an environment exceptionally rich in features they need to study for submarine and anti-submarine warfare.”
Indeed, anti-submarine aircraft are common in the PLA’s incursions near to Taiwan.
On Tuesday this week, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported a Chinese Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft entered Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ the day before.
Late last year, Taiwan began production of its first domestically-made submarines.
The event was marked by a shipyard ceremony, where the nation’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, said the submarines would play “an important part of allowing our navy to develop asymmetric warfare and to intimidate and block enemy ships,” The Diplomat reports.
On Twitter, she added: “We’re more determined than ever to continue developing our self-defence industries and safeguard our sovereignty and democracy.”
The submarines are going to be diesel-powered, and eight are planned to be built in total.
The project is said to have cost a total of $16 billion, with the first submarine set to be finished by 2024.