Chinese military flies Su-30 fighter jet, Y-8 surveillance plane close to Taiwan in latest show of strength
- Taipei scrambles planes, ships in response to ‘long-distance drill by various aircraft’, defence ministry says
- Exercise comes days after US Navy chief says he has not ruled out sending aircraft carrier to Taiwan Strait
Chinese military aircraft flew close to Taiwan on Tuesday as Beijing once again flexed its muscle in the region, Taipei reported.
A Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet and a Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane, which can also be used for surveillance, from the People’s Liberation Army were among the “various military aircraft” seen flying over the Bashi Channel, a disputed waterway to the north of the Philippines, Taiwan’s defence ministry said.
“[The aircraft came] from the southern part of the Chinese mainland, and flew through the Bashi Channel and then … to the western Pacific”, it said.
“The Taiwanese military sent aircraft and surveillance ships in response … to ensure the safety of national airspace and sea areas,” it said, adding that “after the long-distance drill, the [PLA] aircraft returned to base”.
The ministry also appealed to the people of Taiwan not to panic.
The PLA Navy and Air Force have conducted regular patrols in waters and airspace close to the self-ruled island since the pro-independence Tsai Ing-wen was elected its president in 2016. But the timing of the latest drill was significant as it came just days after the head of the US Navy, John Richardson, told reporters in Tokyo on Friday that Washington had not ruled out sending an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait.
Earlier in the month, Chinese President Xi Jinping raised alarm bells when he said Beijing had not only not ruled out the use of force to reunify Taiwan with the mainland but that it “reserves the option of taking all necessary measures” against external forces that sought to intervene.
In October, Xi left no doubt as to his position on the issue when he ordered the military region responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan to “prepare for war”.
The mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office has said repeatedly that Taiwan would face a “dead end” if it refused to recognise the 1992 consensus, which is an understanding that the two sides are part of one China but leaves room for them to have their own interpretations of exactly what that means.
Beijing’s increasingly aggressive posturing led Tsai this month to call for international support in defending Taiwan’s democracy, while the US said it was closely watching Beijing’s moves in relation to the self-ruled island.