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US Navy Buzzes Taiwan Strait With Surveillance Aircraft

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 16, 2023
A U.S. Navy Poseidon surveillance aircraft buzzed the Taiwan Strait during a PLA exercise.
A 2019 file photo of the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft during an ASEAN exercise. The U.S. Navy deployed a Poseidon to buzz the Taiwan Strait while the Chinese military conducted a multi-day drill South of Taiwan. (Image: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. Navy buzzed the Taiwan Strait with a spy plane on July 13 “amid increased Chinese People’s Liberation Army activities in the area,” South China Morning Post reported.

In coverage of the event, Reuters referred to the aircraft, a P-8A Poseidon, as a “patrol plane” and noted its appearance converged with the third day of PLA exercises South of Taiwan.

Military publication Stars and Stripes described the P-8A as “a multirole, twin-engine aircraft based on Boeing’s 737 Next Generation airliner,” adding, “Its missions include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, patrol, search and rescue and anti-submarine warfare.”


Stars and Stripes added that the Taiwan government stated the PLA’s exercises in the region involved “J-10 and J-16 fighter jets, H-6 bombers, Y-8 EW transport jets, unmanned aerial vehicles and carrier-based aircraft.”

The event led to some posturing between the PLA and the U.S. Navy.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet defended the maneuver in a statement: “By operating within the Taiwan Strait in accordance with international law, the United States upholds the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations.”

Meanwhile, the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command posted on its WeChat account, “Troops in the theatre are always on high alert and will resolutely defend national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability,” Reuters noted.

The Poseidon’s appearance sparked a reaction from the Chinese Communist Party’s military apparatus. The Republic of China (Taiwanese) Ministry of Defense told Reuters it had detected the PLA had scrambled 26 planes “including advanced Chinese J-16 and Su-30 fighters” to respond to the craft.

CCP messaging outlet Global Times defined the PLA’s activities as “aimed at safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and unity” in an article that lauded the country’s response to the Poseidon.

Tensions arose just days after NATO criticized “the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) stated ambitions and coercive policies” in Africa and the Middle East in the sixth paragraph of a joint statement released in the midst of the Vilnius Summit on July 11.

NATO, which did not name the CCP in its messaging, said that China’s work in the area poses a “challenge [to] our interests, security and values.”

“The PRC employs a broad range of political, economic, and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power, while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up,” the release also stated.

The sore spot between the alliance and China may be Beijing’s persistent active and passive support for the Russian Federation in the Ukraine war.

“The deepening strategic partnership between the PRC and Russia and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” the document read.

During a press conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated the point when he said that “China is increasingly challenging the rules-based international order, refusing to condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine, threatening Taiwan and carrying out substantial military build-up,” SCMP reported in a second article.

China’s Mission to the European Union responded in a statement that “We firmly oppose and reject this,” as reported by Al Jazeera.

The Mission added that Beijing opposes NATO’s “eastward movement into the Asia-Pacific region,” a similar complaint to that of the Kremlin in the years leading up to the invasion of Ukraine.

In response, Global Times called NATO “Washington’s axe, spears and shovels” and a “source of war” wherever it goes.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink, told reporters at the beginning of July that Secretary Blinken would meet with partners at the ASEAN summit to address China’s “increasingly unhelpful, coercive, and irresponsible actions,” The Independent reported.

Kritenbrink added, “It is not a matter of getting countries on board with the US view, it’s a matter of working with our partners to advance our shared view and vision for the region and to push back on behaviour that runs counter to that vision.”

Just one day prior to the Taiwan Strait incident, Associated Press reported that Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, had alleged “that the country’s warplanes repelled a U.S. spy plane flying over nearby waters Monday and warned of ‘shocking’ consequences if the U.S. continues reconnaissance in the area.”