Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB) recently confirmed that a Chinese military aircraft had crashed into the South China Sea earlier this month. According to Taiwan News, NSB Director-General Chen Ming-tong confirmed that a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) plane had crashed into the South China Sea on March 1. Ming-tong declined to disclose further details about the incident but he informed that PLAAF’s Y-8 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft had crashed in the region.
The March 1 accident was first revealed by Vietnam-based maritime analyst and open-source intelligence reporter Duan Dang. In his Substrack newsletter, Dang wrote that the Chinese authorities had announced a “surpirse military exercise” from March 4 to 15 in order to conceal the search and rescue efforts within a maritime no-go zone. However, the PLA jet crashed in the region before the area was sealed off for the search and rescue mission.
According to Dang, the crash involved a Chinese Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft and occurred off the coast of Sanya, a city on China’s Hainan Island that lies parallel to northern Vietnam. He noted that China was still “actively searching” for the lost maritime patrol aircraft, and had brought in navy, coast guard and seabed research vessels as part of the large-scale operation taking place in water between Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Hainan. On the other hand, China has yet to confirm the plane crash.
China taking advantage of Russia-Ukraine conflict, claims Taiwan
Meanwhile, in a report to the Legislative Yuan’s National Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee, the NSB chief said that the crash was just one example of how Beijing uses its coast guard and military to enforce its territorial claims to almost all of the South China Sea, although Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims. Notably, according to the UN, the South China Sea is also a globally important shipping route, with one-third of global shipping passing through its waters.
Chen Ming-tong stated that China has been taking advantage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to further extend its claims over the region, as many countries, including the US, are distracted by the conflict. It is to mention that China regularly sends aircraft over the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait in routine demonstrations of force. Previously, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also informed that in 2021 alone, China sent more than 1,000 aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (IZ).