China sent a record 56 planes towards Taiwan, continuing its sustained military harassment of the self-ruled island.

The first sortie of 52 planes, including 34 J-16 fighter jets and 12 H-6 bombers, flew near the island on Monday, according to Taiwan‘s defence ministry.

Later, four more Chinese J-16s flew toward the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone – a buffer outside a country’s airspace.

In response, Taiwanese Air Force scrambled its fighter planes and monitored the movement of the Chinese aircraft.

It is part of Beijing’s largest ever show of force against democratically ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.

During China’s National Day on Friday, the People’s Liberation Army sent 38 warplanes into the area followed by 39 aircraft on Saturday and 16 on Sunday.

“China has been wantonly engaged in military aggression, damaging regional peace,” Taiwan premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters on Saturday morning.

Beijing refuses to recognise the island’s government and has increasingly sought to isolate the independence-leaning administration of President Tsai Ing-wen.

Experts have called the flights and other military manoeuvres grey-zone warfare, or any type of military action short of direct combat.

Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949 and Beijing opposes Taiwan’s involvement in international organisations.

The self-ruled island announced on 23 September that it had applied join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a week after China submitted its own application to join the trade pact.

Monday’s manoeuvres by the Chinese air force bring the total to 814 flights sent into Taiwan’s defence identification zone since September 2020.

The military harassment has prompted US State Department spokesperson Ned Price to warn China over the weekend that its actions risk miscalculation and undermines regional peace and stability.

“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” the statement said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded on Monday, saying that the US selling weapons to Taiwan as well as ships navigating the Taiwan Strait were “provocative action that harmed US-China relations”.

“China will take all necessary countermeasures and resolutely crush any ‘Taiwan independence’ plot,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

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