China’s People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) on 11 December sent several aircraft on what it referred to as a “regular patrol exercise” over two strategic waterways near Taiwan.
PLAAF spokesperson Senior Colonel Shen Jinke was quoted by Chinese media as saying that the aircraft formation – which included H-6K strategic bombers, Sukhoi Su-30 and Shenyang J-11 fighters, airborne early warning and control aircraft as well as reconnaissance and tanker platforms – flew over the Bashi Channel between southern tip of Taiwan and the northern Philippine islands and the Miyako Strait between northern Taiwan and Japan.
"Multiple bombers and reconnaissance planes have flown routes that circled the island of Taiwan," Col Shen was quoted by the China Daily newspaper as saying on 12 December, adding that such high-seas training exercises are “in line with international law and practice”.
Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying in a statement that the island reacted by dispatching aircraft and ships to monitor the activity of the Chinese military, pointing out that the drills were “not unusual” and people “should not be alarmed”.
Another Chinese newspaper, Global Times , quoted Col Shen as saying that the drill was aimed at “improving the PLAAF’s long-distance combat mobility and readiness as well as its ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
"The PLA Air Force is progressing into a modern strategic armed force with the ability to fight in all domains," he said, adding that the Chinese Air Force will conduct more high-sea drills in the future.
According to the China Daily newspaper, the latest move marked the ninth such patrol conducted by the PLAAF around Taiwan since August.
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