PLA warplanes ‘carried missiles’ in Taiwan airspace
After a stern warning to the US by a Chinese diplomat over planned port calls, aircraft stepped up patrols of the Taiwan Strait
A top Chinese diplomat to the United States shocked an audience of 200 in a speech last week with some very “undiplomatic” remarks.
Li Kexin, a minister of the Chinese Embassy, warned that the day a US warship visits Kaohsiung will be the day the People’s Liberation Army reclaims Taiwan, when asked to comment on a law passed by the US Congress that authorizes port calls by the US Navy to the island.
On Monday, PLA warplanes resumed patrols of the Taiwan Strait and western Pacific, as a group of H-6K strategic bombers and jet fighters including Su-30s and J-11s flew well beyond the First and Second Island Chains, taking shortcuts via Taiwan’s air defense zone.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province and insists its sovereignty over the territory, and thus its warplanes piercing the island’s airspace violates no international law, stressed PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke.
Yet what has stirred some commotion in Taiwan was that these warplanes appeared to have been carrying missiles, judging from photos dispatched by the PLA.
That was later confirmed by Shen, who said PLA pilots needed to hone their skills in patrols and flyovers in a warlike setting.
Taipei-based Liberty Times, however, said that symbolic posturing aside, Chinese warplanes were unlikely to make further provocations, such as by flying far inland above major Taiwanese cities.
That assessment soon drew a backlash on the mainland, with Beijing’s mouthpiece Global Times prodding the PLA to conduct direct flyovers of towns and cities on the island, even above Taipei.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s defense minister said in a statement on Tuesday that PLA warplanes had “skimmed over” Taiwan’s air border – without crossing it – while under close radar and fighter monitoring by the Taiwan military.