A Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane prepares for takeoff at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Sept. 27, 2023.

A Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane prepares for takeoff at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Sept. 27, 2023. (Logan Beeney/U.S. Marine Corps)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft flew over the contentious Taiwan Strait on Thursday, demonstrating the United States’ “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to the U.S. 7th Fleet.

The aircraft flew south through the 110-mile-wide waterway that separates mainland China from Taiwan, entering from the East China Sea and exiting over the South China Sea, as part of a “routine transit,” said 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Luka Bakic.

“U.S. Navy ships and aircraft routinely use the Taiwan Strait to transit between the two [seas] and have done so for many years,” he told Stars and Stripes in an email Thursday.

The flight was not a response to any particular event, Bakic said. The Navy routinely sends guided-missile destroyers and cruisers through the strait; Navy aircraft also regularly transit there, although the Navy reports such activity less frequently.

Bakic did not specify if the aircraft encountered or interacted with Chinese or other foreign military ships and aircraft but said U.S. ships and aircraft routinely interact with their foreign counterparts.

“All interactions with foreign military forces during the transit were consistent with international norms and did not impact the operation,” he said.

China, which typically condemns such transits as provocative, had not publicly responded to the Poseidon’s flight as of Thursday afternoon.

The Chinese military went on “high alert” following a similar flight on April 28. The transit proved the U.S. is a “disruptor of peace and stability” in the region, China’s Eastern Theater Command said in an April 29 news release.

Beijing views Taiwan, a functioning democracy that split from China in 1949, as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland.

A record 103 Chinese aircraft were active around Taiwan on Sept. 18, outnumbering the previous high of 91 planes and a dozen ships reported by the island’s military on April 11.

China’s activity around Taiwan has returned to typical levels. The island spotted 14 aircraft and five warships Thursday, the Ministry of National Defense said in a post X, formerly Twitter.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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