U.S. military aircraft spotted near southern Taiwan

04/15/2020 11:01 AM
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Image taken from Wikimedia Commons
Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) A United States military reconnaissance plane was reported flying near Taiwan's southern airspace Wednesday morning, marking the 12th time in the past three weeks U.S. military aircraft have been spotted operating near Taiwan.

A U.S. RC-135W Rivet Joint was operating over the South China Sea, according to a flight chart posted to Twitter by the military air movement tracker Aircraft Spots.

Taiwanese military spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) did not directly confirm the sighting, except to say Taiwan's armed forces are closely monitoring the country's surrounding waters and airspace.

American military aircraft have been reported in the skies around Taiwan 12 times since March 25. By comparison, Chinese military aircraft were spotted at least six times since Jan. 23, according to publicly available information from Aircraft Spots and Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND).

On Monday, Chinese Navy spokesman Gao Xiucheng (高秀成) confirmed media reports that the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and several escort ships passed through the Miyaki Strait and waters east of Taiwan on Saturday, en route to the South China Sea for annual training exercises.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), an analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said Sunday that China has expanded its maritime and air presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

"This is probably the main reason U.S. reconnaissance planes have recently been spotted operating near the Bashi Channel, to monitor the movements of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the area," Su said.

Taiwanese analysts have also said the two sides are likely using the frequent appearances to signal their continued commitment to the region, despite the challenges both countries have had in containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

(By Matt Yu and Matthew Mazzetta)

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