Today's D Brief: China keeps buzzing Taiwan; US Covid toll hits 700k; NATO at the Pentagon; Super suits for soldiers?; And a bit more.

China just sent more than 50 aircraft to the southwestern edge of Taiwan. That makes 145 different aircraft buzzing the island since the start of the weekend, according to statistics provided by Taipei’s Defense Ministry.  

Beijing sent 38 aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Friday, one day after a lone anti-submarine aircraft approached Taiwan’s ADIZ. That Friday episode marked the largest-ever incursion into Taiwan’s ADIZ. And so China topped it the next day by dispatching 39 aircraft toward Taiwan on Saturday, then another 16 on Sunday. Each wave consisted largely of Shenyang J-16s, which accounted for 96 of the 145 intruding aircraft, according to Taipei.

For the record: “The incursions did not violate Taiwan’s airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from its coast,” CNN reminded us on Sunday.

From Washington’s POV, China’s activity is “destabilizing, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Sunday. “We have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he added, and said, “We will continue to stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values and deepen our ties with democratic Taiwan.”

Bigger picture: “The PLA is nearing the end of this year’s training cycle and going out with a bang, so to speak,” Bonnie Glaser, who directs the German Marshall Fund’s Asia Program, tweeted Monday.

Related reading: 

From Defense One

Is This the Next US Military Base in Europe? // Jacqueline Feldscher: Lithuania built Camp Herkus to woo a permanent contingent of American troops. But the Biden administration is far from convinced.

Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Happy fiscal New Year; Lower F-35 production rates; Rolls-Royce wins B-52 re-engine contract and more.

Soldiers’ Super Suits Will Sense Surroundings Soon // Patrick Tucker: Tooth microphones and spider senses could be coming to a battlefield near you.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 2017, four American soldiers were killed, as well as four Nigerien soldiers and an interpreter, when ISIS-aligned militants ambushed the partnered force just before noon local time in eastern Niger, near the border with Mali.

More than 700,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the virus that’s killed nearly 5 million people so far worldwide. This dismal U.S. milestone was reached on Friday, and it’s a higher stateside death toll than the last major global pandemic—the 1918 flu, which killed 675,000 Americans and an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
“The astonishing death toll is yet another reminder of just how important it is to get vaccinated,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday. “More than three-quarters of all Americans age 12 and up have now received at least one vaccine dose—including nearly 94 percent of all seniors.”
The U.S. military has lost 515 personnel to the pandemic. That includes 58 service members and more than 300 civilians. More on those numbers from the Defense Department, here.
Bigger picture: “Reports of new cases have been falling steadily in recent weeks as much of the country moves past a summer surge,” the New York Times reports. And those declines include the state of Florida, “which averaged more than 20,000 cases a day during much of August, [but] is now reporting fewer than 6,000 infections a day.”
Looking out across the globe, many more people are getting vaccinated as supplies and infrastructure grow. Indeed, almost half the world is at least partially vaccinated. And people living in Singapore, Cambodia, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, and Mongolia all now have higher vaccination rates than the U.S.
“If you haven’t already, please get vaccinated,” President Biden pleaded Saturday. “It can save your life and the lives of those you love. It will help us beat COVID-19 and move forward, together, as one nation.”

NATO’s chief drops by the Pentagon. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is scheduled to meet Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at about 1 p.m. ET today on the steps of the Pentagon.
By the way: The Pentagon just released a price tag for the Afghan evacuation and airlift effort that came to an end on 31 August. “The total overall cost is estimated at $447 million,” spokesman Pete Hughes said in a statement over the weekend. That includes contracted flights, which came to $254 million.
ICYMI: Congress averted a government shutdown last week by passing a continuing resolution, but the temporary fix means billions planned for new equipment, developing and testing technology to deter China, and “major exercises and training events,” among other things, are on hold, Defense News reported Friday.
The Space Force may see the biggest impact, as the CR will delay the transfer of “hundreds of Army and Navy billets as well as certain satellite communications capabilities, mission responsibilities, and related funding to the new service,” Defense News writes. More details about the effects across the DOD, here

Lastly today: The White House will host a 30-country summit on ransomware and cyber crime a bit later this month, administration officials told CNN on Friday. But quite a few details have yet to be hammered out, including “which countries would participate [and] when exactly the meeting would take place,” Reuters reported. Read more, here.