China’s military says it monitored US maritime aircraft transiting Taiwan Strait

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A US Navy patrol plane flew through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Thursday, following two days of Chinese military exercises to the south of the island Beijing views as sovereign Chinese territory.

China has been incensed by US military missions through the narrow strait, most frequently of warships but occasionally of aircraft, saying China “has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the waterway. Taiwan and the United States dispute that, saying it is an international waterway.

The US Navy’s 7th fleet said the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance plane, which is also used for anti-submarine missions, had flown through the strait in international airspace.

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“By operating within the Taiwan Strait in accordance with international law, the United States upholds the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations,” it said in a statement.

“The aircraft’s transit of the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”

Taiwan’s defense ministry said the aircraft had stuck to the strait’s median line and flew in a southerly direction on Thursday morning, and that Taiwan’s forces kept watch.

The median line normally serves as an unofficial barrier between Taiwan and China, but since last August when China staged large-scale war games near the island its military aircraft have frequently crossed the line, though generally quite briefly.

The mission followed two days of new Chinese drills near Taiwan, involving fighters, bombers and warships flying mainly to the island’s south and out into the Pacific through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines.

While China has not commented on the exercises, they took place less than two weeks before Taiwan stages its own annual drills and as NATO held a summit at which alliance leaders said China challenges its interests, security and values with its “ambitions and coercive policies.”

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