As if there weren’t enough conflicts and flashpoints and potential flashpoints across the globe where the US has a significant military presence at this moment—from Eastern Europe to the Middle East—the Pentagon has decided it’s a good time to do another flyover of the contested Taiwan Strait.
“A US reconnaissance aircraft passed through the Taiwan Strait for the first time in three months on Thursday, a flight the Chinese military said it had watched closely,” the South China Morning Post reported of the Thursday flyover.
Further, the Chinese took the passage of the P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine patrol aircraft as a deliberate provocation for political purposes, with a spokesman for the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command saying the American side “publicly hyped” it.
“The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army organized fighter planes to monitor the passage of US aircraft and dealt with them in accordance with laws and regulations,” Shi said.
“Troops in the theatre remain on high alert at all times and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability,” the PLA statement added.
But as is typical, the Pentagon asserted the US right to upholding “the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations”.
A US Navy 7th Fleet statement said of the reconnaissance plane’s flight, “The aircraft’s transit of the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.” It added, “The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”
The last known US intelligence aircraft to transit the Taiwan Strait occurred on July 13. That incident was also met with protest by China. Washington called it ‘routine.’
In this week’s case, the US Navy “clarified that the flight was not initiated in response to any specific incident,” explaining that “The Navy frequently dispatches guided-missile destroyers and cruisers through the Taiwan Strait as part of their regular operations, and Navy aircraft also commonly traverse this route, even though the Navy might not always publicly report such activities.”