A US spy plane flew into the Taiwan strait on Thursday, passing through China’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and coming within approximately 51 miles of China’s coast, according to a Beijing-based think tank that monitors flights in the region.
According to the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a U-2A reconnaissance aircraft took off from Seoul, South Korea, before making the sortie into the Taiwan Strait. The think tank believes it was the closest surveillance flight in the Taiwan Strait by the US since at least October.
In November, the US sent two US B-1B Lancer bombers into Beijing’s ADIZ in the East China Sea. The US regularly flies spy planes in the region. Sending bombers was clearly meant to send a message to Beijing.
An ADIZ is an airspace where a country requires aircraft to identify themselves in the interest of national security. Beijing set up its ADIZ in the East China Sea in 2013, which the US refuses to recognize. When it was first established, the Obama administration flew two B-52s into the ADIZ.
US spy planes buzzing near China’s coast has become commonplace, and the number of flights has dramatically increased in recent years. In October, the SCSPI told Newsweek that the US has nearly doubled its number of spy plane missions near China since 2009. The US Air Force is now flying an average of 1,500 sorties to the South China Sea each year.
The US has also significantly increased its naval presence in the region. An SCSPI spokesperson told Newsweek: “According to our observations, since 2009, the US military has significantly enhanced the frequency of activities in the region by boosting the presence of surface vessels by more than 60 percent, reaching about 1,000 ship-days a year.”