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Reports: US B-1B bombers fly near China amid string of Chinese warplanes over Taiwan

Two B-1B Lancers, assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., before landing at Andersen AFB, Guam, July 17, 2020. (Airman 1st Class Christina Bennett/U.S. Air Force)
November 19, 2020

Two U.S. B-1B Lancers flew inside China’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, amid a string of flights by Chinese warplanes over Taiwan in recent weeks, according to multiple reports.

The two U.S. bombers, designated MAZER01 and MAZER02, were identified by military flight tracker Aircraft Spots on Twitter on Monday.

Aircraft Spots tweeted, “USAF B-1Bs MAZER01 & 02 departed Andersen AFB, Guam en route to the East China Sea. Aerial Refueling with USAF KC-135Rs PEARL21 & 22 in the block FL190-230.”

Aircraft Spots noted the two U.S. bombers received aerial refueling from two more U.S. Air Force KC-135s in the area northeast of Taiwan.

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U.S. Pacific Air Forces’ Public Affairs office told American Military News in a statement, “All interactions between the bombers and the PLAAF were safe and professional and did not impact or alter their mission.”

“The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, to include in the international airspace of the East China Sea. The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) implementation and enforcement of its declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea are inconsistent with international law. International law does not allow a State asserting an ADIZ to condition foreign aircraft’s transit through international airspace on pre-notification of its authorities, such as is the case with the PRC,” the statement added.

“The United States remains dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and conducts operations in the region and globally in accordance with international law and with due regard for the safety of other aircraft,” PACAF’s statement noted.

The South China Morning Post reported international rules state aircraft flying over another nation’s ADIZ should notify the relevant nation before doing so, but that the U.S. and Japan both do not recognize China’s claim over the area.

Newsweek reported the apparent U.S. flight over China’s ADIZ reportedly prompted China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force to dispatch two of its own warplanes in pursuit and order the U.S. aircraft to “leave immediately.” Video shared on China’s Weibo social media platform purported to share a recording of MAZER01’s transmissions to a Tokyo, Japan-based air traffic controller before the Chinese pilots interject in their own radio transmission and demand the U.S. planes leave the area.

Newsweek reported the flight of the U.S. B-1B bombers is a step up from the Air Force’s usual flight activities around China, which consist primarily of military reconnaissance flights and privately owned spy planes that monitor Chinese military activity.

The Monday interaction between the Chinese and U.S. aircraft come as Chinese military flights over neighboring Taiwan have become a near-daily occurrence since September, according to Taiwanese defense ministry records reported by Newsweek.

Chinese warplanes flew over Taiwan when the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, Keith Krach visited Taiwan in September.

Chinese military flights have continued over Taiwan, and the U.S. B-1B bomber flight near Taiwan on Monday came on the same day Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense tweeted, Two [People’s Liberation Army] aircraft (Y-8 ASW and Y-8 EW) entered #Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ on Nov. 16, the flight paths as illustrated. #ROCAF deployed patrolling aircraft and air defense missile systems to monitor the activities. #Guard and #Protectourcountry.”