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Taiwan ships, aircraft drill inside China's ADIZ in East China Sea

2014/02/26 16:28:53

The Hsin Bei, a 2,000-ton Coast Guard vessel (right), sails under the escort of Navy frigates.

Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) Taiwan has staged a joint military-Coast Guard protection and rescue exercise in an area where China's controversial air defense identification zone (ADIZ) overlaps with those of Taiwan and Japan over the East China Sea.

The multi-purpose drill, held on Feb. 17, was seen as an
indication that Taiwan is pursuing its own national interests despite China's announcement in November 2013 of a new ADIZ that heightened tensions in the region.

The vessels and aircraft involved in the drill moved in a northern direction toward the Republic of China's (Taiwan's) "provisional law enforcement boundary" located 270 nautical miles off Taiwan's northern tip.

They ventured through the ADIZs of both China and Japan and toward China's Chunxiao gas field, which is located within the enforcement boundary.

Two Coast Guard patrol vessels, the Hsin Bei and the Ho-shin, were joined by the Navy's Kang Ding frigate off the port of Keelung on Taiwan's northern coast and first headed toward Pengchia Islet about 30 nautical miles away.

Once there, they conducted simulated firings of 20-mm and 40-mm guns.

They were then joined by an Air Force S-70C helicopter, which cooperated with the Hsin Bei in a drill simulating the rescue of people from the sea.

As the ships headed further north, they were joined by an S-2T anti-submarine aircraft and two F-16 fighter jets, which flew over the Hsin Bei and Kang Ding at an altitude of 500 feet in an identification and communication drill.

When the vessels and the aircraft reached the northernmost line of the ROC's ADIZ, about 133 nautical miles north of Keelung, the Kang Ding and the Feng Yang -- another Navy frigate -- remained to stand guard while the Hsin Bei and the Ho-shin continued north on a patrol mission to protect Taiwanese fishing boats operating nearby.

At 6 a.m. the next day, the two Coast Guard vessels were passing near the Chunxiao gas fields and approaching the 270 nautical mile boundary when they encountered a Japan Coast Guard (JCG) patrol boat, the 1,000-ton PL-120 Kurisaki.

There was a tense moment when the crew aboard the Japanese ship tried to check out the Ho-shin from a close distance, and the crew on the Ho-shin did the same to the Kurisaki, bringing the two vessels within just 0.5 nautical miles of each other at 6:12 a.m.

But the Japan Coast Guard patrol boat then sailed off.

At 6:20 a.m., the Taiwanese Coast Guard ships conducted a series of checks and patrols around wellheads in the Chunxiao gas field, drawing the attention of the Chinese "Hai Yang Shi You 603" tug and supply ship.

The Chinese ship made radio contact with the Hsin Bei, which responded by explaining that Taiwan's Coast Guard was carrying out its mission to protect its fishermen.

The Chinese tug did not try to gather information on the Hsin Bei, instead anchoring quite a distance away.

As the Taiwanese vessels began their voyage back to Taiwan on Feb. 18, Japan sent several SH-60K choppers and P-3C surveillance aircraft to monitor the Hsin Bei and the Ho-shin at low altitude before flying away.

The two Coast Guard vessels were then escorted home by the Navy ships that had been on standby, returning to Keelung at 6 a.m. on Feb. 19.

Sailors who joined the mission said it showed that Taiwan was not scared away by China's announcement in November 2013 of an ADIZ spanning a large part of the East China Sea that was seen as an attempt to assert territorial claims in the region.

(By Kelven Huang and S.C. Chang)

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