Special to WorldTribune.com
By Richard Fisher, Geostrategy-Direct
For the first time since 2011, two Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Shenyang J-11 fighters crossed the Mid-Line of the Taiwan Strait near the Penghu Islands on March 31, 2019.
The incursion prompted Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on April 1 to state on her Facebook page that Taiwan will undertake a “forceful expulsion” of Chinese military aircraft that do so in the future.
China’s provocation caused Taiwan to scramble five fighters to intercept the PLA fighters.
On April 1 Chinese state media Global Times stated the mid-line was “fictitious” and suggested that PLA fighters actually fly over Taiwan.
April 1 also saw an immediate U.S. affirmation of its support for Taiwan from national security adviser John Bolton, who used his Twitter account to state:
“Chinese military provocations won’t win any hearts or minds in Taiwan, but they will strengthen the resolve of people everywhere who value democracy. The Taiwan Relations Act and our commitment are clear.”
Since the 1950s the Mid-Line of the Taiwan Strait, also known as the “Davis Line” after the late Brigadier General Benjamin Davis when he commanded the U.S. Air Force 13th Air Force stationed on Taiwan, has served as an undeclared aerial boundary between China and Taiwan.
During the mid to late 1950s China’s and Taiwan’s air forces were engaged in fierce aerial battles that saw the Soviet Union and the United States test new fighter technologies.
In September 1958, the world’s first successful self-guided air-to-air missile, the U.S. AIM-9B Sidewinder, was employed by a Taiwan Air Force North American F-86 fighter to shoot down a PLAAF Mikoyan Mig-17 fighter.
President Tsai’s sharp warning, however, follows nearly two years of increasing Chinese aerial and naval intimidation.