Chinese air force planes fly through Tsushima Strait for first time

South Korea provoked by Chinese warplanes

China has intensified its drills in the region amid growing tensions over Taiwan after the United States president signed the National Defense Authorization Act that lays the grounds for future mutual naval visits between Taipei and Washington.

The air force said in a statement that fighter and bomber aircraft flew through the Tsushima Strait that separates South Korea from Japan and into global waters in the Sea of Japan.

They then flew to the Japanese air defense zone above the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, a JCS official said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

Chinese air force spokesperson Shen Jinke said they were conducting long-range drills into the Sea of Japan and around Taiwan, alluding to the South Korean reaction as he mentioned they "responded to interference from foreign military aircraft", according to Reuters.

The South Korean joint chiefs of staff identified two H-6 bombers, two J-11 fighter jets and one TU-154 reconnaissance plane entering the KADIZ on Monday morning, local media reported, from the area over the Socotra Rock, before flying out three and a half hours later.

The KADIZ near Ieo Island overlaps the air defense zones unilaterally designated by China and Japan.

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The South's fighters took "normal tactical measures" until the Chinese planes left, it said.

This was the first time the Chinese air force has flown through the strait that lies between South Korea and Japan, Shen said.

The Taiwanese defense ministry said Japan dispatched F-15 fighter jets to intercept the Chinese planes.

The drills follow last week's long-haul flight through the Bashi Channel and Miyako waterway by a Chinese mainland Yun-8 transport plane, with Taiwan sending aircraft and ships to monitor the situation.

China's air force exercises also come amid regional tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, with bellicose rhetoric from both North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump.



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