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China combat drone circles Taiwan, US aircraft transits area

April 28, 2023

Tensions are running high in the Taiwan Strait, as Taipei detected dozens of Chinese warplanes and vessels around the island. A US maritime patrol plane transiting the strait drew condemnation from Beijing.

 A PLA Navy tugboat sails in the Taiwan Strait, past tourists on Pingtan island, the closest point to Taiwan, in China's southeast Fujian province on April 7
China held exercises simulating the sealing off of Taiwan earlier this monthImage: GREG BAKER/AFP

Taiwan's Defense Ministry said on Friday that a long-range TB-001 Chinese combat drone nicknamed "twin-tailed scorpion" circled the self-ruled island, which Beijing claims as its territory.

The ministry said it detected 38 Chinese warplanes around the island and six navy vessels in 24 hours from 6 a.m. Thursday local time (2200 Wednesday UTC/GMT) to the next day.

According to Taipei, 19 of the aircraft crossed the median line — an unofficial boundary dividing the Taiwan Strait — or Taiwan's southwest, southeast and northeast air defense identification zone. 

Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) is not the same as its territorial airspace. It encompasses a much bigger area that overlaps with part of China's ADIZ.

A map illustrating ADIZs in East Asia

The latest incursions are the largest flight display in the area since China ended three days of military exercise earlier this month, during which it simulated sealing off the island. Those war games came after a meeting between Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California that infuriated Beijing.

China also deployed the TB-001 drone, one of the largest in its military arsenal, during the military drills earlier this month.

Tensions remain high between China and Taiwan

US patrol plane flies through area shadowed by Chinese

Shortly after Taiwan said it detected the Chinese warplanes, the US Navy announced that it flew a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance plane through the Taiwan Strait on Friday.

"The aircraft's transit of the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States' commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," the Navy's 7th Fleet said in a statement, stressing that it operated "in accordance with international law." 

A file photo of a P-8A Poseidon conducting flyovers
The US flew the maritime patrol aircraft over international waters, the Navy saidImage: StockTrek Images/IMAGO

Beijing, meanwhile, said its warplanes followed and monitored the US aircraft. 

"Recently, US ships and aircraft have frequently conducted provocative activities, which fully proved that the United States is a disruptor of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," a Chinese military spokesperson said.

China angered by South Korea's comments

Separately, China's Foreign Ministry on Friday expressed Beijing's "strong dissatisfaction" to Seoul over its joint statement with Washington about the need for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is on a six-day state visit to the US, and US President Joe Biden had stressed in a joint statement the need for peace in the region. 

They also said they opposed "any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific, including through unlawful maritime claims, the militarization of reclaimed features, and coercive activities."

China's Foreign Ministry said Department of Asian Affairs Director-General Liu Jinsong met with South Korean Embassy Minister Kang Sang-wook to stress Beijing's position on Taiwan and called on Seoul to strictly adhere to the "One-China" principle.

That's China's phrase for its position that only one valid country exists with China in its name and its connected demand that its partners choose between formal diplomatic relations with Beijing or with Taipei. Although a handful of countries do still have formal ties with Taiwan, most of Taipei's biggest backers, including the US and South Korea, do nominally adhere to the One-China principle.

Japan, South Korea put new focus on militaries

fb/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)