A mainland Chinese warplane was spotted near one of Taiwan’s outlying islands on Wednesday and was suspected of collecting data from Taipei’s missile tests conducted in the area, Taiwanese defense officials said.
The mainland’s Y-8 aircraft approached Orchid island, about 90 kilometers southeast of Taitung city on Taiwan’s main island on Wednesday, according to the self-governed island’s defense ministry. Another 14 mainland warplanes also crossed into Taiwan’s airspace on the same day, the ministry said.
The incursions came as the mainland’s Liaoning aircraft carrier led a fleet in the waters east of Taiwan in a high-profile exercise this week.
Some of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army warplanes were spotted entering the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone between 4.29 a.m and 6.31 a.m local time on Wednesday, according to Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times. Taiwan’s fighters took to the air to warn off the intruders, the report said.
Between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m, a United States EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft also flew into the same airspace “in a rare flight path,” according to Beijing-based research unit South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative.
Mainland China, which sees Taiwan as its breakaway province, has been sending aircrafts into the island’s airspace since last year amid growing tensions.
Earlier this week, military observers in Taiwan intercepted in-air communication between Taiwanese and PLA pilots. The Taiwanese pilots warned the intruders to turn back and leave, while the mainland pilots claimed that the airspace they were in was part of mainland territory.
A spokesperson for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command on Wednesday described the recent military activity near Taiwan as “entirely legitimate.”
The spokesperson was quoted by the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece The Global Times as saying that the PLA’s actions were necessary to defeat pro-independence elements in Taiwan and safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
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