Chinese plane could be gathering intelligence on Taiwan military

Taipei-A Chinese military aircraft that skirted Taiwan's airspace on Saturday could be collecting intelligence concerning the Taiwan military, a scholar warned on Sunday.

A Tu-154MD electronic intelligence aircraft from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) flew northbound over Japan's Miyako Strait near eastern Taiwan on Saturday morning as part of a long-distance training mission, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) confirmed Sunday.

This marks the first time the MND has confirmed it detected a Chinese military aircraft flying near the country since the conclusion of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Oct. 24.

Asked to comment, Chieh Chung (??), a senior assistant research fellow at the National Policy Foundation, a Taiwan-based think tank affiliated with the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), said the Chinese aircraft could be collecting intelligence on Taiwan's military.

The nation's armed forces are currently conducting a search and rescue mission for a missing Mirage-2000 jet fighter in the sea off northeastern Taiwan, he said.

The ongoing mission requires all kinds of communications between different Taiwanese military aircraft and vessels, Chieh told CNA.

Although the PLA aircraft was apparently on a training mission, Chieh said he did not rule out the possibility that the aircraft was also taking the opportunity to collect intelligence on the operating parameters of Taiwanese military aircraft and vessels.

The Mirage-2000, piloted by Captain Ho Tzu-yu (???), took off at 6:09 p.m. on Nov. 7 on a regular nighttime training exercise before losing contact with the control tower at 6:43 p.m. about 90 nautical miles north-northeast of Keelung, according to the MND.

Chieh said the latest move by the Chinese military means the PLA is resuming its main mission of exerting force to curb "Taiwan Independence," following the conclusion of the 19th National Congress of the CPC.

The PLA stopped such missions for a period of time with the recent CPC national congress, U.S. President Donald Trump's first Asian tour and the APEC summit in Vietnam, he said.

However, with the conclusion of those regional and international events, Chieh said the PLA has resumed long-distance training missions.

The scholar said the PLA has undertaken such training missions since 2015, expanding its far-sea training from near coast areas to blue-water operations.

These missions were conducted once every three months from early 2015 to July 2016, though their frequency has dramatically risen since Aug. 2016. There were at least 19 missions from Aug. 18, 2016 to Aug. 14, 2017, he said.

In other words, the PLA has made long-distance deployments a routine part of its live-fire exercise cycle, he added.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel