Taiwan detects China warplanes as vaccine arrives from Poland

TAIPEI – Nineteen Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Sunday, the self-governed island’s Defense Ministry said, as 400,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine donated by Poland arrived.

Taiwanese media speculated that Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province to be reunified, sent the airplanes in response to the arrival of the vaccine developed by Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc.

The 19 warplanes, including 10 J-16 fighters, four H-6 bombers and one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, entered the zone southwest of the island before turning back, according to the ministry.

The vaccine doses arrived at Taoyuan International Airport in northern Taiwan early Sunday morning. A spokesman at the office of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen expressed appreciation for the goodwill gesture from a “democratic partner.”

Poland has become the fourth European country to supply COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, after Lithuania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. All four countries maintain diplomatic ties with China, but are in the middle of re-evaluating their relations with China and Taiwan over Beijing’s alleged human rights abuses and tightening of control over Hong Kong.

According to the presidential office and other sources, the island provided 1 million medical-use masks to Poland in April last year. After virus cases spiked in Taiwan this May, Poland provided 1,500 pieces of protective gear to Taipei city.

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