Taiwan scrambles fighter jets after Chinese spy plane enters air defence zone

A J-15 fighter jet of the PLA Navy prepares to land on China's aircraft carrier Liaoning during a naval exercise in the western Pacific. Photo: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TAIPEI, Oct 2, 2020, SCMP. Taiwan said it scrambled fighter jets on Thursday evening to ward off a Chinese warplane that had entered its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) near a group of islets administered by Taipei, South China Morning Post reported.

The PLA Air Force Y-8 surveillance aircraft entered the southwest sector of the zone close to the Pratas Islands – known as the Dongsha Islands in mainland China – the defence ministry said.

The fighters were scrambled and warnings were broadcast telling the PLA warplane to leave the area, it said in a brief statement.

The Pratas, which comprise one island, two coral reefs and two banks, are located about 445km (275 miles) from Taiwan’s southern port city of Kaohsiung and just over 300km from the Chinese mainland.

The area has been designated a national park and has no human residents except for a coastguard garrison. In August, Taiwan dispatched a marine company to reinforce the garrison amid reports the People’s Liberation Army was planning a simulated attack on the islets.

Despite Thursday being China’s National Day, which this year overlapped with the Mid-Autumn Festival, the timing of the latest incursion by the PLA came as no surprise to Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping.

“The PLA doesn’t take days off … it is making preparations for potential conflicts, because the world is not peaceful now,” he said.

The southwestern area of Taiwan’s ADIZ was an important transit area for American and Taiwanese submarines and had been under constant surveillance from the PLA, he said.

Taiwanese military expert Huang Jingping said in an interview with local media on Tuesday that the PLA’s frequent patrols in the ADIZ were designed to ensure the mainland’s military was familiar with Taipei’s manoeuvres so that it could blockade the island in the event of a war.

Taiwan’s defence ministry has complained of repeated incursions by PLA surveillance aircraft and fighter jets into its air space in recent weeks. During a visit to the island by US undersecretary of state Keith Krach in mid-September to attend the funeral of late president Lee Teng-hui, the ministry reported 37 incidents in just two days.

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