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China deploys attack helicopter in Taiwan Strait same day US warship sails through

A Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Z-10 attack helicopter. (Photo by 3GO*CHN-405/mjordan_6, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
May 11, 2022

The Chinese military deployed multiple attack helicopters in the Taiwan Strait on the same day a U.S. Navy warship was sailing through the waterway.

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense tweeted that three Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) helicopters, including a WZ-10 attack helicopter and two KA-28 anti-submarine warfare helicopters, entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

The Chinese military helicopter activity in the Taiwan Strait came on the same day the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet announced the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73) transited the strait. The 7th Fleet said the U.S. warship operated in an area “beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State” and demonstrated that the U.S. military “operates anywhere international law allows.” The 7th Fleet made no mention of the Chinese attack and anti-submarine warfare helicopters.

Newsweek reported Taiwanese military officials told Taiwese lawmakers on Wednesday that the Chinese attack helicopter crossed about a half-mile over the Taiwan Straits’ “median line.” The U.S. proposed the “median line” in 1950 as a form of maritime buffer line between mainland China and Taiwan. Newsweek reported the buffer had worked throughout the Cold War, but the Chinese PLA has occasionally crossed the line since 1999. While Chinese military flights have entered Taiwan’s ADIZ on a near-daily basis for months, Newsweek reported Tuesday’s helicopter flight was the first time any Chinese aircraft has crossed the “median line” since September of 2020.

The Drive also reported the Tuesday PLA military flights were the first time Chinese forces flew the WZ-10 into Taiwan’s ADIZ.

The WZ-10 attack helicopter can carry a variety of weapons, including the HJ-8, HJ-9 and HJ-10 anti-tank missiles and TY-90 air-to-air missiles, in addition to its 30mm cannon.

The Chinese military didn’t explicitly link its helicopter activity to the USS Port Royal’s actions but did condemn the U.S. warship’s transit in a Wednesday press statement. Senior Col. Shi Yi, the spokesperson for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, described the U.S. warship’s actions as one in a series of “provocative acts to send wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”

Yi said the U.S. has been “deliberately stoking tensions across the Taiwan Strait” and said the U.S. Navy widely promoted its ship’s Taiwan Strait transit and “hyped it up publicly.”

Yi said the PLA Eastern Theatre Command “tracked and monitored the US warship’s passage, and remained alert in the whole course.”

“The troops of the PLA Eastern Theatre Command always stay on high alert to resolutely counter all threats and provocations, and resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Yi said.