US Navy Aircraft Flies Through Strategic Taiwan Strait Following Chinese Drills

China’s fighter jets tracked a patrol plane (belonging to the U.S. Navy) that flew via the Taiwan Strait on Thursday as China conducted a third day of military exercises to the south of the island that Beijing perceives as China’s sovereign territory.

China has reportedly been incensed by the missions of the U.S. Navy via the narrow strait, generally and most frequently of its warships but occasionally also of aircraft, mentioning that China has sovereignty, jurisdiction, and sovereign rights on the waterway.

Taiwan and the U.S. dispute the Chinese claim, saying that it is an international waterway. The U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet declared that the reconnaissance plane and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol flew via the strait in international airspace.

US Navy
Credits: U.S. Navy photo by Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Daniel Rodriguez

By operating in the Taiwan Strait following international law, the U.S. upholds navigational rights and the freedoms of all countries, as mentioned in its statement. However, China’s military described the flight as “public hype,” adding that it sent fighters to monitor and warn the U.S. plane.

Troops in the theatre are usually on high alert. This will help resolutely defend national security and sovereignty as well as regional stability and peace, the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army mentioned in a statement on the WeChat account.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said China’s warships and warplanes conducted a third day of exercises to the south of the island on Thursday, and it detected 26 aircraft, including J-16 and Su-30 fighters (belonging to China) flying out to sea and also responding to the U.S. Poseidon.

Further, the ministry reported that the aircraft belonging to the U.S. had stuck to the median line of the strait, and on Thursday morning, it flew in a southerly direction and that the Taiwanese force kept a watch. The median line typically serves as an unofficial barrier between China and Taiwan.

However, since August 2022, when China conducted large-scale war games around Taiwan, China’s military aircraft have been crossing the line frequently, though typically quite briefly.

China’s most recent drills close to Taiwan have involved fighters, warships, and bombers, with the aircraft flying mainly to the south of the island and out into the Pacific via the Bashi Channel that separates the Philippines from Taiwan, per maps shared by the Taiwanese defence ministry.

So far, China hasn’t commented on these exercises — the ones carried out in less than two weeks before Taiwan stages its annual drills. As the NATO alliance leaders mentioned, China challenges its interests, values, and security with its coercive policies and ambitions.

Reference: Reuters, Channel News Asia, SCMP

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