At approximately 0200 EST this morning, the U.S. Navy confirmed it had sent a P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance plane through the Taiwan Strait. The official announcement reads below:
“A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon transited the Taiwan Strait in international airspace on July 13 (local time). By operating within the Taiwan Strait in accordance with international law, the United States upholds the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations. The aircraft’s transit of the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”
By 0430 EST, a spokesperson for the Chinese Eastern Theater Command made this announcement, confirming that Chinese interceptors had shadowed the aircraft:
“On July 13, the United States 1 A P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft sailed across the Taiwan Strait and was publicly hyped. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army #????# organizes fighter planes to follow and monitor the US planes throughout the process, and deal with them in accordance with laws and regulations. Theater troops maintain a high level of alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability.
These dual announcements paint an especially risky scenario in which any miscommunication or aggressive maneuver from either pilot could result in an international incident. A reconnaissance aircraft transit is always more risky than a warship transit due to the historical aggressiveness of Chinese aviators against these planes. The 2001 Hainan Island Incident is proof enough of this.