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DEFENSE/56 Chinese warplanes cross Taiwan Strait median line, extension: MND

07/11/2024 05:03 PM
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A Chinese J-16 fighter jet. Photo courtesy of Air Force July 11, 2024
A Chinese J-16 fighter jet. Photo courtesy of Air Force July 11, 2024

Taipei, July 11 (CNA) A total of 56 Chinese warplanes crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait or its extension between 5 a.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, according to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND).

The planes flew into the northern, southeastern, and southwestern parts of Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ), the MND said in a statement Thursday.

The planes were part of a larger fleet of 66 aircraft detected around Taiwan, the MND said.

Of the 56 aircraft, some flew as close as 33 nautical miles (61 km) from Cape Eluanbi on Taiwan's southernmost tip, flight paths released by the MND showed.

An ADIZ is an area in which a country claims the right to identify, locate, and control approaching foreign aircraft, but is not considered territorial airspace under international law.

According to the MND, the armada of planes that passed through Taiwan's ADIZ were en route to join the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong for a drill in the Western Pacific.

As of Wednesday morning, the Shandong had transited through the Balintang Channel north of the Philippines, the MND said.

However, Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute of National Defense and Security Research, said that the flight paths taken by some of the planes were unusual.

He was referring to 26 aircraft comprising unspecified types of fighter jets and drones that flew southwest-northeast through Taiwan's southeastern ADIZ before again changing direction and leaving the area.

The flight path was unusual, as Balintang Channel is located southeast of Taiwan.

The planes likely took this unusual path deliberately, in response to the inauguration of American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Raymond Greene earlier this week and his scheduled meeting with President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) on Wednesday, Su said.

Greene, who assumed the role of de facto American ambassador to Taiwan on July 8, told Lai during the meeting in Taipei that the U.S. would "continue to strongly support Taiwan" as it strives to boost its self-defense capabilities.

Sudden increases in Chinese military activity are often a way for Beijing to show its displeasure at international affairs, Su noted.

For example, he said, China sent 57 military aircraft to the airspace above the South China Sea in response to the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier strike group transiting the South China Sea on Jan. 23-24, 2021, less than a week after U.S. President Joe Biden took office.

Similarly, China's decision to stage military drills in the Western Pacific was likely a response to the ongoing U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, he added.

This year's RIMPAC involves 40 surface ships, three submarines, 14 national land forces, and over 150 aircraft from 29 countries.

(By Sean Lin and Matt Yu)

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