Chinese military aircraft has flew over waterways near Taiwan as part of long-range exercises, Taiwan said, the first such flights since a telephone call between Taiwan’s leader and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump irked China.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a wayward province.
Trump’s call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on 2nd December was the first between a U.S. president-elect and a Taiwan leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979. China lodged a diplomatic protest over the call and blamed Taiwan for what it called a “petty” move.
But there was no indication the exercise by its military aircraft was a response to the telephone call.
The Chinese jets flew north to south and entered the Miyako Strait around Japan’s southern islands as well as the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan, but did not enter Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, and Ministry said in a statement.
Japan sent out two of its fighter jets in response to the Chinese flight, China’s defense Ministry said.
The two Japanese F-15 fighter jets flew over the Miyako Strait and conducted “close range interference” and fired decoy flares, “jeopardizing the security of Chinese aircraft and pilots“, Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said in a statement on his Ministry’s website.
Yang said China had grave concerns and lodged a protest over the behavior of the Japanese aircraft during what he called “routine” drills in international waters.
“The behavior of the Japanese military aircraft was dangerous, unprofessional, and damaged freedom of navigation and over flight under international law,” he said.
“Our jet fighters did not obstruct the flight of the Chinese planes. Nothing extraordinary happened,” a spokesman for Japan’s Self-Defense Force said.
China’s drills, lasting for about four hours, involved more than 10 aircraft, including four electronic surveillance planes that flew through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, Taiwan said.
China, which has in recent years become more assertive in the western Pacific and South China Sea, has carried out similar exercises in the area since September.
The Chinese air force has described the exercises as part of regular, annual drills which accord with international law and practice.