by WorldTribune Staff, June 26, 2020
The United States Air Force has increased reconnaissance flights over the South China Sea amid China’s ongoing military drills which are reportedly simulating an invasion of Taiwan.
Three U.S. aircraft — a P-8A Poseidon, an RC-135, and a C-17A Globemaster III — were observed heading toward the South China Sea and the Bashi Channel on June 25, the Taipei Times reported. Five U.S. military planes had been sighted in the area a day earlier.
The U.S. deployment in the region is aimed at preventing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) “from sneaking ballistic missile submarines into the Philippine Sea, from where submarines carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles would be in range to potentially launch attacks on the U.S. mainland,” Tamkang University Center for Advanced Technology executive director Peter Su told the Taipei Times.
A source in the Taiwanese military, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Taipei Times that the U.S. Air Force might have received intelligence about a potential deployment of PLAN submarines.
“The number of passes and the variety of aircraft dispatched to the region could be an indication that the U.S. is conducting trials to gauge the reliability of a possible joint-operation mission in the South China Sea,” the source said.
According to the Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), the P-8A Poseidon was performing anti-submarine patrols between the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands) and the Bashi Channel.
On June 24, the U.S. had deployed two P-8A Poseidons, one P-3C Orion, one RC-135 and one KC-135 Stratotanker refueling craft over the Bashi Channel area, according to SCSPI data.
A Kyodo News report said that the PLA is planning to hold a beach-landing exercise in the South China Sea in August, with the scenario of landing on the Pratas Islands.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense announced on Monday that it is temporarily redeploying marines to Pratas Islands in response to the PLA’s planned exercise.
Maj. Gen. Lin Wen-huang, deputy chief of the Taiwan ministry’s Central Staff for Operation and Planning Joint Operations Division, has said that the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), trained by the marines, were equal to the marines in combat capability and could defend the islands should they come under attack.
The redeployment is temporary, with the main objective of maintaining the CGA’s combat readiness and strengthening its logistics defenses, the ministry said.