China accused the U.S. of deliberately destabilizing the tense security balance in the Taiwan Strait with the flyover of a surveillance aircraft in a statement on Monday, The Associated Press reported.
Chinese forces in the Taiwan Strait, a 100-mile wide bridge of water that separates the self-governing island from mainland China, maneuvered to keep a close watch on the U.S. P-8A Poseidon spy plane as it flew past to ensure “all matters were in hand,” China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command said in a social media statement, according to the AP. Beijing characterizes movements of foreign military ships and aircraft through the strait as a provocation, threatening its claim on the island.
The U.S. “deliberately disrupted and undermined the regional situation,” the PLA statement said, according to the AP. (RELATED: Xi Jinping Sets Sights On Taiwan Invasion By 2027, CIA Director Says)
American naval ships regularly pass through the strait in a symbolic move to bolster freedom of movement, guaranteed under international law, through the waters separating China and Taiwan. However, overflights of U.S. military planes are less frequent, according to the AP.
“We firmly oppose this. Theater troops maintain a high level of alert at all times and will resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the PLA said, according to the AP.
The U.S. 7th Fleet acknowledged the overflight in a statement released Monday local time.
“By operating within the Taiwan Strait in accordance with international law, the United States upholds the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations,” the statement said. “The aircraft’s transit of the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Low and slow – a P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 flies by the aircraft carrier #USSNimitz (CVN 68) yesterday, somewhere in the Philippine Sea.#Poseidon #US7thFleet #FreeAndOpenIndoPacific pic.twitter.com/GqpkY51loq
— U.S. Pacific Fleet (@USPacificFleet) February 24, 2023
However, China accused the U.S. of playing up the flight, saying it “endangered peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
China frequently sends sorties of military vessels and planes across the Taiwan Strait and into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). It has also staged several military exercises mimicking an invasion of Taiwan intended to intimidate Taipei and deter the U.S. from taking stronger action on the island’s behalf.
In addition to ongoing concerns over China’s designs for Taiwan, the spy flight comes as revelations of a global Chinese surveillance program have inflamed suspicions between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to Beijing after the U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon that had crossed North America and overflown several sensitive U.S. military sites earlier in February. The relationship is made more uncertain as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told CNN on Friday he is not in contact with his Chinese counterpart.
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