(Bloomberg) — If any war were to break out between the US and China, one trigger may be the increasingly frequent fighter-jet encounters near Taiwan.
Almost every day, Taiwanese fighter pilots hop in their American-made F-16s to intercept Chinese warplanes screaming past their territory. The encounters probe the island’s defenses and force the pilots on both sides to avoid mistakes that could lead to a crisis that spins out of control.
“I didn’t know whether they would fire at me,” said retired Colonel Mountain Wang, recounting a tense five-minute confrontation he had with People’s Liberation Army jets more than a decade ago. “You have to be highly alert, and not lead to any accident with unintended consequences.”
The risk is even higher now, and not just because China is sending more jets with more experienced pilots ever closer to the main island of Taiwan. On Wednesday, China deployed 22 warplanes across the US-imposed median line over the Taiwan Strait, the most since Taiwan’s military began disclosing data in 2020.
The sorties were part of a flurry of military exercises that China held around Taiwan in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s landmark trip to Taipei earlier this week. China fired 11 missiles into waters near the island Thursday, with Japan saying late Thursday that it estimated some of those missiles flew over Taiwan — which would be a new first.
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