Taiwan claims a Chinese plane approached the remote island

Taiwan claims a Chinese plane approached the remote island
Taiwan Island/courtesy

TAIPEI, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that a small Chinese civilian plane flew very close to a remote Taiwanese-controlled island off China’s coast earlier this month, suggesting China was testing a new strategy.


Taiwan has complained about Chinese military activity near it for the past two years, with China’s air force primarily flying into Taiwan’s air defense zone off its southwestern and southern coasts, despite being relatively far away from Taiwan itself.


This is referred to as “grey zone warfare” by Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and on which it has increased pressure to accept its sovereignty. The goal is to exhaust the island’s air force and put it to the test.


On Feb. 5, the aircraft flew very close to Dongyin, which is part of the Matsu archipelago off the coast of China’s Fujian province, according to the ministry.


The ministry confirmed it was a Chinese civilian Y-12, a light twin-engined aircraft, after previously not being able to identify it.


“We have made a preliminary judgment on the Dongyin incident, and we cannot rule out the possibility that they are using civilian aircraft to test the responses of our military,” ministry spokesman Shih Shun-wen told reporters.


“The military will undoubtedly respond in kind, but it will also take a variety of contingency actions in the event of a minor incident that triggers a war.”


The aircraft entered Taiwan’s “defence reaction zone,” but not its territory in Matsu, which Taiwan defines as waters and air space extending six kilometers (about four miles) from the coast. Taiwan’s claims to sovereignty are not officially recognized by China.

Shih cited military confidentiality as a reason for withholding details about Taiwan’s response to the incident.


A request for comment from China’s defense ministry was not immediately returned.


Residents in Dongyin were able to see and hear the plane flying right next to them, according to Taiwanese media.


Since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taipei in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, the Matsu islands have been under Taiwanese control.


Although the Matsu islands are not as well-defended as they were until the late 1970s, when China frequently shelled them, Taiwan retains military forces on the islands.


Taiwan also controls the Pratas Islands at the northern end of the South China Sea, as well as the much larger Kinmen island and a few nearby islets further down the Fujian coast across from China’s Xiamen city.


Shih refuted reports in Taiwanese media that Chinese military planes had entered Pratas airspace last week.


He believes China is attempting to “create chaos” by disseminating false information on the internet.


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