Taiwanese troops patrol the southern end of the island, Jan. 12, 2023.

Taiwanese troops patrol the southern end of the island, Jan. 12, 2023. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Taiwan scrambled aircraft and dispatched ships late Tuesday to monitor the passage of two Russian warships off its eastern coast, according to the island’s Ministry of National Defense.

Two Russian frigates traveled northward along the coast toward the East China Sea around 11 p.m. Tuesday, the ministry said in a news release Tuesday. It did not specify how far offshore the ships were.

In response, Taiwan’s military used “joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance methods” and “dispatched mission aircraft, ships and shore-mounted missile systems to closely monitor” the Russian vessels, according to the release.

The ships continued on course and left Taiwan’s “response area” southeast of Suao, a city on the island’s northeastern edge that is also home to a logistics support naval base, according to the Defense Ministry.

While Taiwan reports near-daily activity from the Chinese military off its western coast in the Taiwan Strait — 49 Chinese aircraft and 20 ships have been reported in the waterway since Sunday — Russian activity is less common.

The warships’ passage comes less than a week after the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary outfit, organized a brief, two-day rebellion against the Russian government that began Friday with the group taking over military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and concluded Saturday after they stood down and withdrew from the city.

It also comes just over a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing to meet with high-level Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, which Blinken described as “candid and constructive” but failed to secure the United States’ top priority of renewed communication between the two countries’ militaries.

Beijing considers Taiwan, a functionally independent democracy, to be a breakaway province and aims to reunite it with the mainland.

China and Russia remain close allies, with the two countries regularly coordinating military exercises together, although Beijing has not openly endorsed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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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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