Taiwan's Ministry of Defence appeals for calm amidst reports of Chinese aircraft circling Taiwan

Taiwan's Ministry of Defence appeals for calm amidst reports of Chinese aircraft circling Taiwan
PHOTO: Reuters

The appeal came after photos of People's Liberation Army bomber jets were circulated over the weekend on social networking websites in both Taiwan and China.

Some media outlets speculated that the PLA warplanes had flown within visible range of two natural features in Taiwan.

One photo, posted on Friday by the PLA air force on Weibo - a Chinese microblogging platform that is similar to Twitter - showed a Xian H-6K bomber that was apparently flying within visible range of Yushan (Jade Mountain).

The second photo, posted by a Chinese netizen on Weibo on Sunday, showed another H-6K within visible range of Taiwan's Lanyu (Orchid Island).

The photos triggered speculation that the Chinese government was trying to use the jets to warn President Tsai Ing-wen against taking any risk in altering Taiwan's status quo.

Ministry of National Defence (MND) spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi confirmed that the PLA military aircraft had circled Taiwan twice in the past four weeks.

However, he said the aircraft did not enter the country's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) and that Taiwan's military was able to stay on top of the situation and respond if necessary.

PLA aircraft circled Taiwan on Nov. 25 and Dec. 10. They flew around southern Taiwan over the Bashi Channel before joining other planes over Japan's Miyako Channel and returning to China.

Chinese media said the two peaks visible in the background of a photo of an H-6 bomber appeared to be Yushan, or North Dawu Mountain, but Chen said the identities of the locations were mere speculation.

Chinese netizens speculated that another photo showing an H-6K jet had been taken near Orchid Island (Lanyu) and Little Lanyu off Taitung County in eastern Taiwan.

A former military pilot was quoted as saying that the Xian H-6 bomber, which is capable of carrying air-launched cruise missiles, may have been flying north at an altitude of 20,000 feet and was close to Taiwan's ADIZ near Orchid Island.

The latest tension has prompted former Vice President Annette Lu to call on the government to draft both men and women to serve in the military in order to boost the nation's defence capabilities.

In a recent news conference, Lu said the government should scrap its plan to build an all-volunteer military force and should go one step further by drafting women for the military service in order to maintain strong armed forces in Taiwan.

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