Six Chinese warplanes, including four H-6 strategic bombers, two electronic intelligence jets, one Tu-154MD and the other Y-8, flew past the Miyako Strait between Taiwan and Japan’s Okinawa prefecture on November 19, until the Japanese Self-defence Force scrambled jet fighters to monitor and intercept the flyover, Japan’s Ministry of Defence said.
Taiwan authorities confirmed that the Chinese warplanes crossed deep into the island’s airspace – above the waters off Eastern Taiwan – before following the same route back.
“The flyover was closely monitored while our warplanes and pilots were put on full alert. The national armed forces will strive to defend airspace and the safety of our people,” Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.
A report on Monday in Beijing mouthpiece Global Times also said that a number of People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes traversed the Taiwan Strait – the first time after the conclusion of the Communist Party’s 19th Congress last month and US President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing. It hailed the resumption of saber-rattling a “righteous patrolling of Beijing’s own sea and airspace”.
Taipei-based Liberty Times revealed that the PLA planes passed the suspected crash site of a Taiwan Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter which went missing northeast off Keelung on November 7.
“The two Chinese intelligence jets didn’t just happen to fly past the site, while the air-sea search for the pilot and plane is still underway, with frequent communication among ships, planes and the Taiwan military command…
“The Chinese spy planes aimed to intercept signals and collect intel about Taiwan army’s communication, as well as rescue and emergency deployment,” United Daily News quoted an observer as saying.
The spy version of the Russia-made Tu-154 can ascend to an altitude of 12,000 meters, and the China-modified Tu-154MD has a large synthetic aperture radar under its mainframe, together with infrared imaging and a television surveillance system. The aircraft has been plying Taiwan’s airspace in recent years when Beijing beefs up its intelligence warfare against the island.
Papers in Taiwan say the frequency of Beijing’s incursions into Taiwan airspace have ballooned within a short span of three years: from around once per quarter between 2015 and mid-2016 to at least 19 times in the 12 months up to August.
“Beijing has really made [such patrolling] a new normal and it has shown no intention to slacken the pace, with six planes above Taiwan in a single day,” a Taiwan military expert said.