Navy spy plane passes over Taiwan Strait with Chinese fighter jets in tow
Stars and Stripes December 7, 2023
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon flew through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, prompting China to scramble fighter jets to monitor its passage.
The maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft flew southwest from the East China Sea to the South China Sea around 12:30 p.m., as part of a routine transit, U.S. 7th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. j.g. Sarah Merrill said by email Thursday.
“U.S. Navy ships and aircraft routinely use the Taiwan Strait to transit between the two [seas] and have done so for many years,” she wrote.
The Poseidon’s trip was not in response to any particular event, but such transits do “demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a stable, free and open Indo-Pacific, and confirm that the U.S. Navy flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows,” Merrill added.
China, however, said the trip was “publicly hyped” and said it took steps to track the aircraft by organizing “fighter planes to monitor the passage” of the Poseidon, Chinese army Col. Shi Yi wrote Wednesday on an official Weibo social media account.
“Troops in the theater remain on high alert at all times and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability,” the post said.
Beijing considers Taiwan, a functional democracy, as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. China routinely criticizes U.S. operations in the strait.
Chinese forces hailed the aircraft, Merrill said, but all communications “were consistent with international norms and did not impact the operation.”
The U.S. regularly sends warships, typically destroyers, through the strait. Less frequently, aircraft such as the Poseidon fly through the 110-mile-wide waterway that separates China from Taiwan.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta, along with the Canadian patrol frigate HMCS Ottawa, made a trip through the strait on Nov. 2.
China’s army similarly claimed the joint transit was “publicly hyped” at the time.
China on Nov. 30 said U.S. weapons sales to Taipei are “turning Taiwan into a weapons depot and a powder keg,” The Associated Press reported that day.
The U.S. maintains unofficial and nondiplomatic ties with Taiwan, while abiding by the One China policy.
However, the U.S. is also bound by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act stipulating it will provide enough defense weapons and support so that the island can maintain a “sufficient self-defense capability.”