Six Chinese military aircraft, including fighter jets, entered Taiwan's southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Thursday, amid unconfirmed reports that a French frigate was spotted near Taiwan's west coast. According to a report from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND), the Chinese aircraft involved included one Y-8 electric warfare aircraft, one Y-8 electronic signals intelligence aircraft, and four J-16 multi-role fighters.
Taiwan's Air Force responded by scrambling planes to monitor the Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings and mobilizing air defense assets until the Chinese planes left the area, the MND said according to the Focus Taiwan website.
All of the aircraft were spotted in airspace southwest of Taiwan, between Taiwan and the Taiwanese-held Dongsha Islands, an MND chart showed. The airspace is considered by Taiwan to be part of its ADIZ, an area declared by a country to allow it to identify, locate and control approaching foreign aircraft, but such zones are not considered territorial airspace.
Although it has become an almost daily routine for Chinese warplanes to fly into Taiwan's ADIZ over the past two years, such sorties have only happened on three days this month -- Aug 8, 11 and 12, according to MND records.
The Chinese military maneuvers on Thursday came after unconfirmed reports that the French frigate FS Provence was spotted by MarineTraffic, a ship tracking website, in waters off Changhua County in western Taiwan. A local Coast Guard unit first confirmed the report but later retracted it via a press release. However, on Thursday evening the French's Defense Ministry said no French military vessels are deployed in the Taiwan Strait at present, in answer to a query from CNA.
If a French frigate moored near Taiwan it would likely be seen as a provocation by Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.
The latest Chinese sorties also came two days after Taiwan lauded Lithuania for defying Beijing on the establishment of a "Taiwanese Representative Office" in Lithuania.
China, which sees the name of the office as having sovereignty implication announced on Tuesday that it has decided to recall its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded Lithuania do the same due to the row over the Taiwan office. Responding to Beijing's move, Lithuania's Foreign Ministry said it is "determined to pursue mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan like many other countries in the European Union and the rest of the world do," in line with the One China principle.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, lauded Lithuania's "resolute will" to defend freedom and its national dignity.