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International relations

China sends record 39 warplanes into Taiwan zone, Taipei says

Saturday's incursion, after similar flights Friday, draws rebuke from island

After witnessed 38 Chinese air crafts a day before, Taiwan has reported the largest ever incursion by the Chinese air force into its air defense zone with 39 aircrafts into the island's airspace. (Photo courtesy of Taiwan's Defense Ministry)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Thirty-nine Chinese military planes entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone on Saturday, a one-day record since the self-governed island began disclosing such figures in September last year, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

It said 20 Chinese military aircraft entered into the southwestern part of the zone during the day and 19 at night. They included 26 Shenyang J-16 and 10 Sukhoi Su-30 fighters.

The previous record of 38 military planes was set on Friday.

On Saturday, Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang criticized China for "damaging regional peace," while local media quoted U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks as saying the Pentagon is carefully watching the situation in the region "day to day."

Hicks reportedly told an online forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday that the United States is focused on helping Taiwan increase its capabilities to defend itself in the event of a Chinese invasion.

"We have a significant amount of capability forward in the region to tamp down any such potential," she was also quoted as saying by the Taipei Times.

China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, has ramped up pressure on Taiwan following its recent application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

The administration of President Tsai Ing-wen is stepping up its efforts to convince member countries, including Japan, to accept Taiwan as a TPP member.

The incursions appear to also be a warning to the United States and Japan against further strengthening relations with Taiwan.

China has expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democratic Party's newly elected president Fumio Kishida's welcome to Taiwan's application for TPP membership. He will take office as prime minister on Monday.

According to the defense ministry, the Chinese air force has made more than 550 incursions so far this year. Taiwan's military planes have been scrambled to warn the Chinese aircraft away.

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