Taiwan scrambles fighter jets as China carrier enters strait

by WorldTribune Staff, January 11, 2017

Taiwan’s military was on placed on high alert as a group of Chinese ships, led by the Liaoning aircraft carrier, transited the Taiwan Strait on Jan. 11.

According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, Beijing’s Soviet-built aircraft carrier, returning from exercises in the South China Sea, had not entered Taiwan’s territorial waters but did enter its air defense identification zone in the southwest.

China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of the South China Sea. /Reuters

Taiwan sent its aircraft and ships to “surveil and control” the passage of the Chinese ships north through the body of water separating Taiwan and China, Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said.

China said the Liaoning was on an exercise to test weapons and equipment in the disputed South China Sea and its movements complied with international law.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said China’s ships “couldn’t always remain in port” and the navy had to hone its capabilities.

“The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway shared between the mainland and Taiwan. So, it is normal for the Liaoning to go back and forth through the Taiwan Strait in the course of training, and it won’t have any impact on cross-Strait relations,” Liu said at a briefing on Asia-Pacific security.

China opposed the election of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and has stepped up pressure on her after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump broke years of diplomatic protocol and took a congratulatory call last month from her.

Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea scrambled fighter jets after eight Chinese military aircraft were spotted flying over the Korea Strait close to Japanese islands on Jan. 9.

Citing Japan’s Ministry of Defense, the NHK TV channel reported that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft, which included six Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) H-6 strategic bombers, a Shaanxi Y-8 early warning aircraft, and a Shaanxi Y-9 intelligence-gathering aircraft, flew towards the Sea of Japan over the Tsushima Strait in the eastern channel of the Korea Strait, turned around, and then flew back over the East China Sea.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported the Chinese planes entered the Korean air defense identification zone for five hours, prompting South Korea to launch “a sortie of fighter jets” and send a warning signal to the Chinese planes.

Yonhap said the planes flew near a submerged rock located off the southern coast of Jeju island “several times.”