The Chinese military baselessly warned on Saturday that a U.S. military plane’s flight over the Taiwan Strait international waterway had endangered peace in the region.
The U.S. aircraft, a Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, flew over the Taiwan Strait on June 24. Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesman for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command responded to the U.S. warplanes flight the next day, saying, “Such provocative move by the U.S. side jeopardizes regional situation and harms the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese side is adamantly opposed to that.”
Shi suggested the P-8A’s flight was intentionally provocative because the U.S. side “hyped it up publicly.” Shi did not specify how the U.S. side “hyped up” the aircraft’s flight. Currently, there is no mention of the flight on the U.S. Navy’s press website, nor any mention of the activity on the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s website, the website of the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet or the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) website.
In reaction to this flight, PLA ground and air forces tracked the U.S. aircraft’s flight and remained on alert throughout its duration.
“The troops of the PLA Eastern Theater Command keep high vigilance at all times to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, said the statement,” Shi said.
While the Chinese side baselessly characterized the U.S. aircraft’s actions as a provocation that threatened the regional peace, the U.S. routinely flies aircraft and sails warships through the Taiwan Strait and in the surrounding waterways. The U.S. typically refers to these actions, especially the passage of warships through the Taiwan Strait, as so-called “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPs) and states that the U.S. military “flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
Even though much of the Taiwan Strait is considered international waters, China has tried to assert that the waterway is part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). While Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, China has long maintained that the island is a part of its territory.
Earlier this month, China reportedly told the U.S. military to stay out of the Taiwan Strait entirely. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states an EEZ grants its particular sovereign state the exclusive rights to the “economic exploitation and exploration of the zone” but other nations are still permitted rights to “navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea.” The UNCLOS rules on EEZs do not prohibit passage by military vessels and aircraft.
The Chinese side routinely engages in its own military activity in the Taiwan Strait. Chinese warplanes enter Taiwan’s air-defense identification zone (ADIZ) on an almost daily basis and has held live-fire drills in the waterway.