Chinese military aircraft crossed Taiwan Strait median line 300 times in month of ‘key military exercises’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Lion Islet, a remote islet of Kinmen Island, where the Taiwan military shot down a drone that flew overhead. The city of Xiamen can be seen in the background in this photo taken on Aug. 25.

BEIJING / TAIPEI — Chinese military aircraft crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait a total of 300 times in August when China conducted “key military exercises” in waters around Taiwan in reaction to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. This was 150 times greater than the total number of such flights in all of 2021.

The Yomiuri Shimbun learned this through compiling data released by Taiwan’s defense ministry.

Sunday marks one month since the start of the Chinese exercises, conducted from Aug. 4 to 7. As there has also been a series of Chinese drone flights to small Taiwan islands, Chinese military intimidation has become normal.

The median line had become the de facto border between China and Taiwan. In the Taiwan Strait, which is approximately 130 to 410 kilometers wide, a fighter jet flying at the speed of sound can reach the main island of Taiwan in a matter of minutes once it crosses the median line. Crossing the median line is an act that could spark an accidental conflict. Such crossings previously occurred a few times a year, with only two aircraft crossing last year.

Since Aug. 3, there have been crossings of the median line every day except on Aug. 27 and 31, and a total of 14 such crossings were observed on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese military vessels spotted by the ministry waters near Taiwan also totaled approximately 190 in August.

In addition, the Chinese military used the waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan as a live-fire exercise site for the first time during the key military exercise and even fired ballistic missiles over Taiwan. Taiwan, which has focused on the defense of its western flank, is now being forced to devote its strength to the defense of its eastern side, as well.

The annual report on the Chinese military submitted to the parliament by the defense ministry on Wednesday pointed out that the exercise “makes the median line of the Taiwan Strait unclear.” The report expressed a sense of alarm that the Chinese military has expanded the scope of its activities to the eastern and southeastern offshore areas of Taiwan, too, thus “narrowing the scope of Taiwan’s defense operations and increasing China’s military intimidation.”

In the vicinity of Kinmen Island, a series of drones believed to be from China have been observed flying lately, and on Thursday the Taiwan military shot down an unidentified civilian drone. Kinmen Island is only a few kilometers from Xiamen in Fujian Province, China.

The Taiwan side considers this a “gray zone situation,” meaning an infringement that cannot be judged as an armed attack, and it has become a new threat.

The United States has made clear its support for Taiwan by having its naval vessels sail through the Taiwan Strait.