U.S., Chinese military aircraft fly near Taiwan’s airspace

Image taken from Wikipedia Commons/Photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force

TAIPEI (CNA) — A United States military reconnaissance aircraft was reported flying near Taiwan’s southern airspace Friday, the same day the Ministry of National Defense (MND) confirmed Chinese warplanes were monitored southwest of the country.

A U.S. RC-135U Combat Sent was operating in the South China Sea, according to a flight chart posted on Twitter Friday morning by Aircraft Spots, a military air movement tracker.

Taiwanese military spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) would not directly confirm the aircraft’s movements, except to say that the nation’s armed forces are closely monitoring the country’s surrounding waters and airspace.

According to charts released by Aircraft Spots and Taiwan’s own records, the latest operation was the sixth time since March 25 that a U.S. warplane was found to have been operating near the country’s airspace.

The first three occurrences happened between March 25 and 27, while the fourth and fifth occurrences took place on March 31 and April 8.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the RC-135U movement near the Bashi Channel and into the South China Sea may have been to monitor unusual activity by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the area.

Also Friday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry confirmed that several Chinese J-11 jet fighters, KJ-500 early warning aircraft and H-6 bombers were monitored flying over waters southwest of Taiwan and then entering the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines earlier in the day.

Soon after entering the skies over the channel, the Chinese warplanes returned to their bases via the same route, the MND said, but it did not disclose where the planes were based.

According to the MND, the sortie also marked the sixth time that PLA planes were seen operating near the country’s airspace this year.