TAIPEI (CNA) — A United States military aircraft was reported flying near Taiwan’s southern airspace Tuesday, marking the fourth time this month a U.S. warplane had been spotted operating near the country.
The U.S. Navy P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft was operating in the South China Sea, according to a flight chart posted on Twitter on Tuesday by Aircraft Spots, a military air movement tracker.
Asked to comment, Taiwanese military spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) did not directly confirm the movement, saying only that the nation’s armed forces are closely monitoring the country’s surrounding waters and airspace.
Based on charts released by Aircraft Spots and Taiwan’s own records, the latest incident was the fourth time in March that a U.S. warplane was found to have been operating near the nation’s airspace.
The previously three occurrences all happened last week: on March 25 by an EP-3E ARIES II reconnaissance aircraft, on March 26 by a B-52 Stratofortress bomber and a KC-135 tanker, and on March 27 by another B-52 bomber and an RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS McCampbell conducted operations in the Taiwan Strait on March 25, according to information released by the U.S. Pacific Fleet on its Facebook page.
The U.S. military’s frequent operations around Taiwan, both in the air and at sea in the past week are designed to show that the U.S. is continuing its monitoring of the region, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local military analysts told CNA.
Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a section chief of the government-funded thinktank, the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), said the U.S. warplanes intentionally turned on their transponders so that their signals could be picked up by air movement trackers.
In this way, it was sending a clear message tactically that it is closely watching the region despite the pandemic.
These military movements might also be monitoring any moves made by their Chinese counterparts, he added.
Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University’s Institute of Strategic and International Affairs, said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is apparently playing the “anti-China/pro-Taiwan” card by frequently sending warplanes and warships near Taiwan in the hope of gaining more voter support in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.