Taipei, A Chinese spy ship, which had remained in waters off Taiwan’s east coast for more than a week, sailed away from the area Saturday morning after Taiwan’s Navy sent a ship to monitor its activity.
According to military sources, the intelligence vessel belonging to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been spotted in waters 38-75 nautical miles off the coast of Hualien County since Sept. 18.
Its appearance coincided with live-fire missile tests conducted by Taiwan along its southeastern coast on Thursday.
On Thursday evening, Taiwan’s Navy dispatched a Ching Chiang-class patrol ship, which has counter-intelligence capabilities, to monitor the Chinese ship when it attempted to sail closer to Hualien, sources said.
The PLA ship moved southward last night before sailing out of sight of Taiwan’s Navy this morning, according to military sources, but its deployment was the longest continuous stay by a Chinese military ship in the area in recent years.
Taiwan’s military expects the PLA’s intelligence vessel to return as another missile test will be conducted in the eastern side of Taiwan next Tuesday.
In another military maneuver, a Chinese Y-9 intelligence aircraft challenged both Japan and Taiwan on Friday.
According to a chart issued Friday evening by Japan’s Defense Ministry, the Y-9 flew in a southeast direction through the Miyako Strait (between Okinawa and Miyakojima) and then in a southwest and then west direction to just over 100 kilometers away from Hualien before turning around and following the same path back to China.
Oddis Tsai (蔡榮峰), a researcher at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), told CNA that the moves by the PLA were not new, but they were significant because of the timing.
“The PLA spy vessel’s deployment to waters near Hualien is something that happens whenever there’s a missile test by Taiwan,” he said.
The Miyako Strait, a key waterway for China’s Navy to get outside the first island chain of defense that includes Taiwan, serves multiple purposes in the PLA’s Anti-access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities, he said.
He felt that the Y-9’s flight put more pressure to Tokyo than Taipei because it followed the inauguration of Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s new prime minister, on Sept. 16 and Suga’s first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) the same day.
Tsai speculated that Beijing may have intended to use the military maneuver as a way to press Tokyo to invite Xi for a visit.
What is now worth watching, Tsai said, is how close the PLA’s assets come to Taiwan and whether they reach within Taiwan’s contiguous zone, which extends roughly 24 nautical miles from its coastline.
“Should the PLA operate inside Taiwan’s maritime borders in the east and its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the southwest at the same time, this would inevitably further complicate the situation,” Tsai said.
“By doing so, the PLA would be signaling its attempt to control both the Miyako Strait and the Bashi Channel,” he said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel