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Taiwan intel: China military plane crashed in South China Sea

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts patrols in international waters of the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, in 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto/Released)
March 12, 2022

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

A Chinese military aircraft crashed in the South China Sea earlier this month, the Taiwanese intelligence agency said Thursday, providing a possible explanation for China’s closure of a part of the Gulf of Tonkin near Hainan island.

Chen Ming-tong, director general of the National Security Bureau, told the Parliament’s Foreign and National Defense Committee that the crash prompted the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to set up a navigation exclusion zone in the adjacent waters to carry out search-and-rescue, and also military training.

Chen didn’t provide any further details, citing sensitivities surrounding the source.

He did however warn that as the world is focused on the war in Ukraine, China is taking advantage of the situation to “test the limits of the U.S. and other South China Sea claimants.”

On March 4, the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigation warning banning ships from entering an area in the Gulf of Tonkin that was closed for military drills until March 15.

Part of the area lies within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry protested, asking China to respect its EEZ and continental shelf.

China’s Foreign Ministry replied, saying that “it is reasonable, lawful and irreproachable for China to conduct military exercises on its own doorstep.”

Vietnam and China reached an agreement to demarcate their share of most of the Gulf of Tonkin in 2000 but their negotiation on the mouth of the gulf has stagnated.

China has not acknowledged any plane crash recently and continues to conduct daily incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

A Chinese military spokesperson said at the annual session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Wednesday that the PLA will not tolerate any “Taiwan independence” move.

Wu Qian reiterated the threat that the PLA would “hit every time” there are such moves, according to the state-run Global Times.