Taiwan scrambles jets to monitor military planes from mainland China in air defence zone

Bombers, reconnaissance aircraft spotted flying over East China Sea, island’s defence ministry says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 July, 2017, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 July, 2017, 10:59pm

Taipei has released two photos of Beijing military planes flying over the East China Sea near the island after it scrambled fighter jets to monitor them on Thursday.

Beijing sent H-6 bombers, Y-8 electronic intelligence aircraft and Y-8 jammer aircraft to conduct long-range drills in the island’s air ­defence identification zone (ADIZ), Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Friday.

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It was the first time the defence ministry had published photos of mainland planes since the People’s Liberation Army stepped up its military exercises near Taiwan, local newspaper Liberty Times said. The ministry had published ­reports of mainland warships entering its ­ADIZ in the past.

Earlier this month, the island scrambled jets and navy ships to shadow a flotilla led by the Liaoning aircraft carrier as the warships headed towards Hong Kong.

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Former Taiwanese defence minister Yang Nien-dzu, who served in Ma Ying-jeou’s ­administration, said President Tsai Ing-wen had taken a tougher stance in defending the island against PLA threats since she came to power last year, but the photos were not enough to deter Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its “inalienable territory”.

“The photos send a message to Taiwanese that their army won’t back down,” Yang said. “It aims to show that the military has been keeping a close eye on the situation.”

On its website, the defence ministry said it had been monitoring the mainland warplanes during the long-range exercises and said Taiwanese people should “remain at ease”.

Zheng Zhenqing, an expert in cross-strait relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said the photos showed Taiwan’s military was on high alert as political tensions rise.

“But in terms of military power, the mainland has a clear advantage,” Zheng said. “It is unlikely to be affected by such warnings.”

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Beijing does not recognise Taiwan’s ADIZ, while its own identification zone in the East China Sea covers islands that are also claimed by Tokyo.

Japan has frequently published photos of Chinese warplanes flying over the disputed airspace since China set up its ADIZ in the East China Sea in late 2013.

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Japan’s Self-Defence Forces on Thursday also released photos of the Chinese planes taken by Japanese fighter jets.

Taiwan’s United Daily News quoted a military expert as saying that it was quite unusual for China’s military to send an electronic jammer to the “first island chain”. The so-called first island chain is a sea defence line Beijing unilaterally draws running from southern Japan to Taiwan, the Philippines and the southern South China Sea.

The newspaper said the mainland planes flew through the Bashi Channel, which lies ­between southern Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Miyako Strait, between Japan’s southwestern islands of Okinawa and Miyako.

The report also called attention to the increasing number of mainland Chinese planes and long-range training drills in the ADIZs of Taiwan and Japan, a strategy it said was clearly aimed at containing the United States.

Additional reporting by Associated Press