KEY POINTS

  • The route taken by ships were closer to Taiwanese islands Keelung, Yilan and Hualien
  • Military analysts believe it is rare for PLA ships to take the route they did Tuesday 
  • China also sent jets to Taiwan's ADIZ, this time closer to its southeastern areas

Taiwan has said it was monitoring Chinese warship movements near its east coast, two days after Japan revealed that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) vessels undertook a never-before voyage through the waters between Taiwan's Yilan County and Japan’s Yonaguni.

The Japanese Defense Ministry on Wednesday said two Chinese navy ships diverted from their usual route of entering the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait on Tuesday, and for the first time, traveled between Yilan and Yonaguni, reported Taipei Times.

The course the two PLA vessels took was close to the islands of Taiwan's eastern coastal region, including Keelung, Yilan and Hualien.

According to Tokyo, Japan Self-Defense Forces said it picked up the presence of China’s Type-056A Jiangdao-class corvette 220km north of Yonaguni at 9 am Tuesday. The vessel met with a Type-052C Luyang II-class destroyer 210km north of the island at 11 pm, before sailing together toward the Pacific, it said.

China too acknowledged the transit of the vessels, with state-backed Global Times reporting that PLA destroyer Xi'an and corvette Xiaogan made an unusual journey through the stretch.

According to military observers, PLA warships usually enter the Pacific through the Miyako Strait — between Japan’s Miyako-jima and Okinawa islands — the Bashi Channel or the Luzon Strait, the latter two of which are between Taiwan and the Philippines. "It is rare for PLA ships to take the route they did on Tuesday, which shows that China is breaking with custom," military observers told Taipei Times.

Meanwhile, a separate flotilla including three PLA warships - destroyer Taiyuan and frigates Anyang and Zhoushan - sailed from the East China Sea into the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait Tuesday. They were followed by Type 052D Zibo, which made a transit through the Miyako Strait on Wednesday.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General Sun Li-fang said that its navy closely monitors all Chinese ship movements. "The military is confident, resolved and prepared to safeguard the nation," he added.

The PLA Air Force too deviated from its usual pattern Tuesday by sending 29 fighter jets to the east of Orchid Island. The jets, which included Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft, a Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane and six Xian H-6 bombers, took a longer-ranged flight, which means the PLA planes were closer to Taiwan’s southeastern areas than before.

According to the Global Times report, this joint maritime and aerial exercise could greatly "enhance combat readiness against Taiwan independence and foreign interference forces."

EastChinaSea
A file picture of Chinese naval vessels participate in a drill on the East China Sea China Daily/via REUTERS
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