A warplane of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday again approached the island of Taiwan, marking the 26th day the PLA has done so in 30 days in November, and surpassing the frequency record in October, media on the island reported on Monday.
The move comes amid the rampant military interactions between Taiwan island and the US, and Chinese mainland military experts said Monday that the PLA sorties are likely no longer part of exercises announced back in September, but routine missions to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
A PLA warplane entered Taiwan's southwestern "airspace" on Monday noon, meaning the PLA has sent warplanes near Taiwan in 26 out of 30 days in November, surpassing the record of 25 out of 31 days in October, Taipei-based newspaper the Liberty Times reported on Monday.
The Chinese Defense Ministry announced in September that the PLA Eastern Theater Command was conducting combat-oriented exercises near the Taiwan Straits. It was also around that time Taiwan media started noticing the increased frequency of PLA sorties in the region.
The sorties have become routine. Since a single set of exercises usually does not last several months, it is likely that the September exercises have already ended, but routine trainings continued, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese mainland expert on military aviation, told the Global Times on Monday.
Taiwan is an inseparable territory of China, and the PLA needs to train in the region to safeguard national security and unity, Fu said, noting that external forces have been conducting unfriendly military activities in the Taiwan Straits.
In early November, the US reportedly moved forward with the sale of four MQ-9 SeaGuardian aerial drones to the island of Taiwan, with Brent Christensen, the Director of American Institute in Taiwan, reportedly saying that the sales have bipartisan support in the US. On November 22, the US Pacific Fleet announced the guided missile destroyer USS Barry transited the Taiwan Straits on November 20.
According to statements released by Taiwan's defense authority in the past month, the PLA warplanes that operated near the island mainly included special mission aircraft like the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft, and Y-8 and Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft, similar to October.
Fu said that the PLA is mastering the use of special mission aircraft.
Unlike fighter jets and bombers that train in peace time to fight future wars, special mission aircraft trainings also have practical applications, as they can monitor surface and underwater vessel movements by Taiwan and the US, gather electronic signals and intelligence, and jam their electronic devices, analysts said.
In response to Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen's recent claim that Taiwan would keep trying to seek US support and deepen their so-called partnership, Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson, said at a regular press conference on Thursday that "We will not allow anyone or any force to infringe upon and secede the sacred territory of our motherland. Once such a serious situation occurs, the Chinese PLA will deal a blow and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity."