Two Chinese military surveillance aircraft were monitored as they flew east of Taiwan yesterday, marking the third time this month that Chinese military planes were detected near the nation, the Ministry of National Defense said.
Two Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Shaanxi Y-8 aircraft flew northeast through the Bashi Channel to the south, but remained outside of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), the ministry said.
They later flew over the Miyako Strait, accompanied by two Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, before returning to their base in China, it added.
It was the latest in a series of Chinese military activities near Taiwan since last month.
On Wednesday, a Y-8 aircraft was detected flying over the western Pacific Ocean, through the Miyako Strait and into the East China Sea, while on Aug. 5, a group of Chinese Xian H-6K bombers and Y-8 aircraft were seen near Taiwan’s ADIZ.
On July 25, a Xian H-6K bomber flew close to Taiwan’s ADIZ, passing through the Bashi Channel and the Miyako Strait before returning to Chinese airspace, the ministry said.
On July 20, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets as eight H-6K bombers and Y-8 aircraft flew past its east and west coasts, but remained in international airspace.
The Miyako Strait, which lies between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa, is part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, but includes a narrow band of international waters and airspace.
The ministry said the maneuvers have been closely monitored.
China has yet to comment on the drills, but its air force has carried out several rounds of long-distance training exercises around Taiwan and southern Japanese islands in recent months.
The frequency at which Chinese military aircraft have been circling the nation is a signal that Beijing intends to make such flights routine, National Taiwan University associate professor of political science Chen Shih-min (陳世民) said yesterday.
It should be expected that Chinese aircraft are to inch closer to the nation’s ADIZ and some might begin gathering intelligence, he said, adding that the PLA judges that Taiwan cannot counter the flights, as military action is considered an outright impossibility.
The flights also serve to show the PLA’s ability to conduct operations within its sovereign claims at will and convince the world that Taiwan is a part of China, he added.
Beijing might believe that the cross-strait political climate gives it no other option to pressure Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration than to show force, he said.
Although Beijing did not find such measures necessary during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, it could be concerned that given time, the nation’s continued independence might become a fait accompli, he said.
Any development in that direction would bode ill for Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a time when the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is close at hand, Chen said.
Internal struggles are flaring up ahead of the congress and Xi might have sought to relieve pressures from the hawkish factions through an ostentatious display, Chen said.
The government must register a protest with the international community against any further provocations from Beijing to remind other nations of the situation’s gravity, he said.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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