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Taiwan says it detected China jets on way to Pacific drills

July 10, 2024

Taiwan said some 36 Chinese planes were heading to the western Pacific for drills with aircraft carrier the Shandong.

Taiwanese navy ship Keelung, foreground, a US-made Kidd Class destroyer, monitors the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, background, near the Taiwanese waters in September 2023.
Taiwanese Defence Minister told the media that his ministry had a 'full grasp' of the Shandong's movementsImage: Handout/Government Produced/AP Photo/picture alliance

China's Shandong aircraft carrier passed near the northern Philippines on its way for exercises in the Pacific, Taiwan's Defense Ministry said. Taipei also reported dozens of Chinese aircraft joining the aircraft carrier for drills around the self-ruled island.

Taipei said on Wednesday that "since 0520 today (2150 UTC, Tuesday), the Ministry of National Defense detected a total of 37 Chinese aircraft" around Taiwan, including fighter jets, bombers and drones.

"[The aircraft] headed to the western Pacific via our southern and southeastern airspace to cooperate with the aircraft carrier the Shandong in conducting 'joint sea and air training,'" the Defense Ministry said in its statement.

Carrier passes close to the Philippines

Taiwanese Defence Minister Wellington Koo said his ministry had a "full grasp" of the ship's movements.

"It did not pass through the Bashi Channel," he said, referring to the waterway that separates Taiwan from the Philippines and a route that Chinese warships and warplanes usually take when they head into the Pacific.

"It went further south, through the Balintang Channel, to the Western Pacific," Koo said, a conduit between the Philippines' Batanes and Babuyan Islands.

The Chinese Defense Ministry did not immediately comment.

The Philippines military raised concerns over the deployment of the Chinese carrier group.

"We emphasize the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region and urge all parties to adhere to international laws and norms," spokesperson Francel Margareth Padilla said, according to Reuters news agency. 

Manila and Beijing are embroiled in a stand-off over the contested Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, Japan's Joint Staff Office confirmed that four Chinese navy vessels — including the aircraft carrier Shandong — were sailing in the sea 520 kilometers southeast of Miyako Island.

"On the same day, the Chinese navy's Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier 'Shandong' was observed landing and departing fighter aircraft and helicopters on board," the office said.

Taiwan will strive to maintain status quo, says President Lai

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te met Raymond Greene, the new director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de-facto US embassy. Lai said his administration would seek to maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait "in the face of China's repeated challenges and attempts to change" it.

China claims the self-governed island of Taiwan as its own territory, keeping up a regular presence of fighter planes, drones and warships around the region.

China conducted military drills around Taiwan in May, days after Lai took office. Beijing said those drills were a "punishment" for Lai's inauguration address that it deemed as a "confession of Taiwan independence."

Greene told Lai in Wednesday's meeting that the US would continue to "strongly support Taiwan's ability to defend itself."

 "We have a long-term and shared interest to maintain the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. This is vital to the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, as well as to global security," the de-facto US ambassador said. 

Like many other nations, the US does not officially recognize Taiwan diplomatically, but it is the island's most important arms supplier. 

Taiwan Tensions Soar: China Stages Live-Fire Drills After New Leader's Inauguration

dvv/sms (AFP, Reuters)