Taiwan’s defense minister said on Wednesday that the island has spent nearly $900 million this year scrambling its air force in response to incursions by warplanes from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
PLA flights increased near Taiwan in response to a September visit to the island by US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach. After the visit, PLA warplanes made several incursions and crossed the median line, an informal line in the Taiwan Strait that China usually avoids.
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Yen De-fa said the air force scrambled 2,972 times this year against China. Yen clarified that an earlier number of 4,132 given by the defense ministry included regular training and exercises.
Taiwan launches F-16s and other jets to intercept PLA warplanes. The US approved a $8 billion sale of F-16s to Taiwan this year, which will bring the island’s fleet of F-16s to over 200.
Since the US cut off diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, Washington has continued to sell weapons to the island, angering Beijing. During the annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference this week, a US Pentagon official said the island’s recent military budget increase was not enough to counter China and urged Taiwan to spend more.