China attack helicopter and US warship operate in the Taiwan Strait on the same day

A Chinese attack helicopter flew across the middle of the Taiwan Strait the same day the US Navy dispatched a warship through the waters on Tuesday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry confirmed.

A WZ-10, a helicopter operated by the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force, made a “0.5 nautical mile” foray across the “center line” of the straits, members of Taiwan’s parliament heard in an open briefing on Wednesday.

China has claimed Taiwan for decades, though it has never ruled the democratic island, which considers itself a functionally independent state. Drawn by the US in the 1950s, the center line acted as a buffer of sorts between Beijing and Taipei throughout the Cold War, but has occasionally been crossed by the PLA since 1999.

Tuesday’s crossing was the first such action by a Chinese military plane in 20 months, following flights by Chinese warplanes in September 2020. The moves were seen as highly provocative at the time and were themselves in response to a visit by Keith Krach, a former Secretary of State for the Trump Administration.

China Helicopter, US warship in the Taiwan Strait
An illustrative map of Chinese military activities in Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone shows a WZ-10 attack helicopter of the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force crossing the center line of the Strait of Taiwan on May 10, 2022, the first Chinese military aircraft in 20 months.
Ministry of National Defense, Taiwan

Wang Shin-lung, Taiwan’s deputy defense minister, told lawmakers that the PLA is likely to conduct an inspection of its training exercises. Taiwan, which is aware of relevant Chinese troop movements, is not at risk of an accidental misfire, Wang said.

In a regular report on its website, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had also spotted two Ka-28 helicopter missions in the skies southwest of the island. The type of aircraft — a submarine hunter — will be launched from warships of the PLA Navy, a Taiwan Air Force spokesman said news week after a similar incident earlier this year.

The ministry also confirmed the presence of a US Navy vessel in the strait on the same day as the WZ-10 crossing. The Japan-based 7th Fleet said the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal conducted “a routine cross-strait transit” on May 10.

Port Royal sailed “through a corridor in the strait lying beyond the territorial sea of ​​a coastal state,” the statement said, noting that the ship was using international waters in the strait, which is 80 miles wide at its narrowest point.

China Helicopter, US Warship in the Strait of Taiwan
The USS Port Royal conducted a transit of the Taiwan Strait on May 10, 2022, a first for a Ticonderoga-class warship since February 2020. Above, the Port Royal (R) and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego to operate in the South China Sea on April 9, 2021.
Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Eduardo A. Torres/US Navy

It was the first transit by a Ticonderoga-class ship since February 2020 and the fifth transit by a U.S. warship this year, which has become a monthly exercise to signal U.S. commitment to allies and partners in the region.

Each month between January and April, the transit was performed by an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the last by the USS Sampson on April 26th.

Col. Shi Yi, a spokesman for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command (ETC), said Chinese forces pursued Port Royal throughout its passage. He accused the US of “staging drama and provoking riots” to “deliberately increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait.”

On Monday, the ETC announced that it held joint operational training sessions in the seas and skies off east and southwest Taiwan between May 6 and May 8.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters on Tuesday that Chinese warplanes and helicopters made more than 100 takeoffs and landings from China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning in the western Pacific between May 3 and 8.

The carrier group from Liaoning entered the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait on May 2.

At a May 10 hearing on Capitol Hill, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Weapons Services Committee that China aims to develop the capabilities to seize Taiwan over American intervention. But Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said China would prefer not to use force. China attack helicopter and US warship operate in the Taiwan Strait on the same day

Rick Schindler

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