Senior defense officials in Taiwan were timid about the country’s military collaboration with Japan when asked on Monday about satellite images showing an apparent joint surveillance operation of a Chinese warship in the sea. from eastern China.
Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters that Taiwan is cooperating with a number of friendly parties, but said it cannot release information on specific departments.
The Japanese Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) frigate Binzhou had crossed the Miyako Strait into the Western Pacific the day before. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force later deployed an Abukuma-class escort destroyer and two maritime patrol planes as the only Chinese warship traveled north through the narrow waters between Taiwan and Yonaguni, the inhabited island. the westernmost of Japan, which is less than 70 miles from eastern Taiwan. coast.
Satellite images dated May 1, however, revealed an additional detail not present in the Japanese Defense Ministry’s announcement: A Taiwanese warship also appeared to be nearby, apparently monitoring Binzhou on its return to the East China Sea.
In the same setting, a Taiwanese Navy Kee Lung-class destroyer can be seen sailing about 6 miles west of Chinese and Japanese warships. Taipei Apple Daily described it as the first joint surveillance operation between Taiwan and Japan.
Taiwan’s defense officials, however, did not corroborate the newspaper’s view that Taipei and Tokyo collaborated over the weekend.
Defense Minister Chiu said Taiwan is sending ships and planes to monitor the assets of the People’s Liberation Army operating in designated areas.
“It is not about specific cooperation with a country. It is inappropriate [to disclose]”Chiu told reporters.” Regarding national defense, we will monitor whenever necessary. “
In a recent report sent to Taiwanese lawmakers, the Defense Ministry said it was sharing intelligence with the American Taiwan Institute (AIT) – the de facto United States embassy in Taipei – regarding the movements of the Chinese Navy in the West Pacific and South China Sea.
Asked whether the ministry shared Saturday’s operations report with AIT, Chiu said he was “not free” to name specific departments.
His deputy, Chang Che-ping, offered a similar response when questioned by lawmakers during a defense committee hearing, also on Monday. He did not comment on the reports implying cooperation between Taiwanese and Japanese forces.
Chang confirmed that Taiwan tasked a Kee Lung-class destroyer to observe Binzhou, whose crew was probably on a training and intelligence gathering mission. Chang said the ship “does not pose a serious threat” to Taiwan’s security.
The appearance of the PLA warship in the western Pacific on Friday coincided with the theft of five planes by the Chinese military in the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). According to the Taipei Defense Ministry, a Chinese Y-8 anti-submarine warfare plane passed through the Bashi Channel in the south of the island before turning back.
Lu Li-shih, an instructor at the Taiwan Naval Academy in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, said the warplane was likely linked to Binzhou for anti-submarine exercises.
Like the Miyako Strait, the Bashi Channel is one of the few international waterways that the Chinese Navy can use to exit the First Island Chain. Its added strategic importance at the mouth of the South China Sea is often cited as the reason for the increase in PLA warplane activity in the southwest corner of the Taiwan Air Defense Zone. .