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Observers claim the US Air Force has been sending military planes near the South China Sea. Peking University’s, South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative think tank said three American warplanes had appeared in the Bashi Channel between the hours of 10 am and 12 pm.
It claims they consisted of an EP-3 reconnaissance plane, P-8A anti-submarine aircraft and KC-135 aerial refuelling aircraft.
The think tank posted charts online suggesting that three planes flew briefly into the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence zone.
They ending up towards the Bashi Channel and then heading out to the South China Sea.
On Twitter, the think tank said: “US EP-3E (AE1D91) is reconnoitring in the #SouthChinaSea, June 26. A P-8A and a KC-135 are following up, June 26.”
Taiwan’s defence ministry declined to comment on possible US military movements.
They only said the ministry was fully aware of foreign military activities around Taiwan and that armed forces were ensuring the island was in a secure position.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warplane was briefly spotted approaching the southwest of Taiwan’s ADIZ early on Friday afternoon.
It was quickly warned off by Taiwan’s air force, which scrambled jets to shadow the aircraft.
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The ministry did not identify the type of plane.
According to reports, the PLA aircraft flew into the region shortly after the US warplanes.
This makes it the ninth incursion by a Chinese aircraft since a US transport plane flew through the southwest coast of the island on June 9.
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A Taiwanese security source speaking to the South China Morning Post said the US Air Force was carrying out joint missions related to anti-submarine tasks.
They commented: “US warplanes have been massively reconnoitring between the Bashi Channel and the South China Sea, indicating that the USAF must have intelligence about PLA Navy submarine movements in the region.
“With the involvement of a number of different kinds of warplanes, it also shows that the USAF is testing the readiness and reliability of its joint missions in this region.”
Su Tzu-Yun, a research fellow at the Institute for National Defence and Security Research, told the South China Morning Post American forces may have been acting on specific intelligence.
He said: “The US warplanes may have intelligence about the PLAN submarines and that could be the reason why the US warplanes were tasked to look for any unusual activities of the PLAN submarines in the Bashi Channel.
Mr Su added Chinese ballistic missile submarines could attack the US from the Philippine Sea to the east of Taiwan.
There are concerns other waters in the region, such as the Miyako Strait and the Bashi Channel, could be used for military operations.
Mainland Chinese submarines appear to have been operating near Japan.
Last weekend, Japan’s defence ministry said it spotted a foreign submarine, believed to be a Chinese vessel, underwater in a contiguous zone northeast of Amami Oshima Island, in Kagoshima prefecture.
When in territorial waters, foreign submarines are instructed to resurface and raise their national flags.
This is in accordance with international law.
However, underwater activities are not banned in contiguous states, which surround territorial waters.
Japan sent Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyers and patrol aircraft to monitor the submarine, which passed through a narrow strip of water between the prefecture’s Tokara island chain and Amami Oshima without surfacing.
Japanese media quoted an unidentified SDF source as saying that the submarine might have been testing Japanese and US anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
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