TAIPEI (CNA) — A United States military reconnaissance plane was reported flying near Taiwan’s southern airspace Friday morning, the ninth time U.S. military aircraft have been observed operating near Taiwan in April.
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.
The Ministry of National Defense (MND), meanwhile, did not directly confirm the sighting, except to say that Taiwan’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 ninth time since the beginning of April that a U.S. warplane was found to have been operating near the country’s airspace.
Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), an analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said Friday that 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.
The U.S. plane had its transponder switched on, which exposed the plane to detection by various online aircraft tracking sites, Su said.
Su suggested the move was deliberate and was intended not only to demonstrate the U.S.’s military muscle in the South China Sea but also as a form of military public diplomacy.