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Beijing sent the largest-ever incursion by Chinese jets into Taiwan’s air-defense identification zone last Friday, leading the country’s defense ministry to announce that it would no longer scramble its own planes in response.

These flights through Taiwan’s ADIZ are now essentially a regular occurrence, and they figure into a broader Chinese “gray zone” campaign against the country that has included everything from banning pineapple imports to inflict economic pain to sending a fleet of civilian sand-dredging ships to erode the coastlines of Taiwan’s peripheral islands. Scrambling its own jets to intercept the People’s Liberation Army’s planes only drained precious resources at a precarious time, so Taipei will instead train its missile systems on the PLA jets each time an incursion occurs.

U.S. defense planners warn that Beijing is softening the ground for an assault — one that might come in the not-so-distant future.

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