The military and national security apparatus was in “full control” when two Chinese Sukhoi-27 fighters crossed the centerline in the Taiwan Strait on June 29, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday.
The Chinese-language newspaper United Daily News reported that one of the two Chinese fighter aircraft had crossed the theoretical median maritime border between Taiwan and China while allegedly pursuing a U-2S high-altitude US reconnaissance aircraft.
Two Taiwanese F-16 aircraft intercepted the Su-27s, which subsequently returned to Chinese airspace, the report said.
According to the report, the U-2 was based out of a US base in Osan, South Korea, but took off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, to execute a surveillance mission.
Inquiries to a spokesperson at the US Department of Defense to confirm the presence of a U-2 aircraft near the Taiwan Strait on June 29 remained unanswered by press time yesterday.
The ministry confirmed the veracity of the report, but added that the incident was an isolated case and was not regarded as a provocative act.
The military is closely monitoring the activities of Chinese aircraft in the airspace over the Taiwan Strait, it said in a statement.
“When any emergency situation is detected, the military will immediately send the [Taiwanese] air force to the area to deliver warnings,” the statement said.
Legislators yesterday differed on the significance of the incident.
The intrusion was an act of “aggression, demonstration, provocation and unfriendliness,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said at a press conference, adding that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the ministry should file a protest with Beijing.
The act was “an infringement of our sovereignty,” DPP legislators Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) and Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said, urging Ma and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) to protest.
The ministry handled the incident in accordance with standard operation procedure, Presidential Office spokesperson Fang Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said.
“With current cross-strait relations the best they have been in decades, I don’t think China sent those fighter aircraft to provoke Taiwan. It did so to warn the US against gathering intelligence along its southeastern coast,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said.
It might be acceptable for Taipei to express its displeasure to China about the incident, but lodging a protest would be unnecessary, Lin added.
“The incident was just a case that has sometimes occurred during the past decades and no armed aerial confrontation ensued,” Lin said.
Lin said he did not support the idea of Taiwan negotiating the creation of a confidence building mechanism (CBM) with China as a result of the incident.
“The time is not right for CBM talks … and that would worry the US,” he said.
“It’s not unusual for soldiers on the front line to commit such mistakes,” said KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民), a retired army general.
Shuai said Taipei should refrain from overreacting because “the centerline has always been an invisible line and the Chinese aircraft did not make their way deep into Taiwanese territory.”
“It comes down to the pilot’s behavior. Taiwanese aircraft were scrambled and the Chinese side turned back. That’s about it militarily,” he said.
If Taiwan overplays the significance of the incident, it would only stir up more trouble, Shuai said, adding that a similar situation occurred every day after former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) defined the cross-strait relationship as “state-to-state” in nature.
“It’s not necessary to demand an explanation from the mainland [China],” Shuai said.
KMT caucus whip Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) said the caucus would invite ministry officials to brief lawmakers on the incident to clarify possible misunderstandings after the legislature convenes in late September.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER
COMMUNICATION: A US representative said that Starshield is inactive in and around Taiwan, which could put US military personnel at risk in the Western Pacific in a conflict Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) might have contravened its Pentagon contract by not providing access to its satellite communication network Starshield in and around Taiwan, a letter from a US House of Representatives committee to the company said. In September last year, the US Department of Defense awarded SpaceX a one-year contract for Starshield access, worth US$100 million. A few months before that, the Pentagon also commissioned SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network to be used by Ukrainian forces amid Russia’s invasion. Starshield is a derivative of Starlink intended for military use. SpaceX has long worked closely with the US military and intelligence agencies, which
SEEKING CALM: The US called for maintaining the ‘status quo,’ while the Ministry of National Defense said it would not bolster defenses in the area to avoid raising tensions Taiwanese should have greater faith in the government’s investigation into the capsizing of a Chinese vessel that resulted in the death of two Chinese fishers last week, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said yesterday, adding that Taiwan abides by the rule of law. On Wednesday last week, a Chinese speedboat was spotted trespassing in “prohibited” waters within 1.1 nautical miles (2km) of the east coast of Kinmen. It fled after refusing the coast guard’s request to board the vessel, setting off a chase that led to the boat capsizing, with two Chinese fishers dying. Two survivors were deported back to China
KINMEN: Coast guards on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should prohibit the entry of illegal vessels into ‘restricted’ waters to uphold maritime safety, Chen Chien-jen said Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) yesterday called for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to approach the security of Kinmen and Xiamen waters with rationality and equitability, following a boat chase that resulted in the death of two Chinese fishers last week. Chen was responding to media inquiries ahead of a legislative session amid rising cross-strait tensions following the capsizing of a Chinese speedboat off the east coast of Kinmen on Wednesday last week during a pursuit by the Taiwanese coast guard. The Ministry of National Defense established the boundaries of “prohibited” and “restricted” waters around Kinmen in 1992 to better protect
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: TSMC founder Morris Chang said he has high hopes for the new fab, based on his experience in Japan 56 years earlier, and amid high demand for AI Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday held an opening ceremony for its first chip manufacturing fab in Kumamoto, Japan, which it hopes will improve chip supply resilience and help Japan usher in a semiconductor renaissance. The Kumamoto fab is slated to enter volume production in the fourth quarter of this year. The Japanese government said it would extend its financial support of the project to include the construction of a second factory, as TSMC’s investment is crucial to its efforts to revive its semiconductor industry. The Kumamoto fab is owned by a joint venture, Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Inc (JASM), which