Taiwan radio enthusiasts tune in as Chinese, U.S. warplanes crowd sensitive skies
By Yimou Lee and Fabian Hamacher
SYUHAI, Taiwan (Reuters) - Shortly after dawn on a southern Taiwan beach, Robin Hsu's iPhone pings with the first radio transmission of the day from Taiwan's air force warning Chinese planes.
"Attention!" says a voice on the radio speaking in Mandarin to a Chinese military plane flying at 12,000 feet. “They have entered our southwest air defense identification zone and are threatening flight safety.
Taiwan, which claims China as its own territory, has complained for years about repeated Chinese air force missions into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which is not territorial airspace but a broader area it monitors for threats.
Although Taiwan's Defense Ministry details these near-daily abuses on its website, including maps outlining the activities, a group of Taiwanese radio enthusiasts like Hsu have shut down related radio communications and posted the recordings online.
“The Chinese communist planes are like flies on your dinner table. If you kill them on your plate, your meal will be ruined," said Hsu, 50, a tour guide and military enthusiast. "All you can do is wave them away."
The action ebbs and flows. On a day in May when Reuters accompanied Hsu, nine more warnings were sent to Chinese warplanes after the dawn one.
According to the island's military, the Chinese planes did not fire a shot and did not come near the coast of Taiwan.
But for Taiwan, such incursions amount to a low-key war of attrition, as the island frequently uses planes to intercept Chinese planes. Taiwan's Defense Ministry has described the flights as "grey area" tactics aimed at physically and financially exhausting its air defenses.
In the middle of the lunch break, Hsu's iPhone - which is connected to a separate radio antenna - was listening to another broadcast, this time in English.
"Chinese Air Force, I am a United States aircraft operating in international airspace and exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law," the broadcast said. "I work with due regard for the rights and duties of all States."
On a flight-tracking app, a US military tanker plane flew east from Taiwan's southwest into the Bashi Channel that separates the island from the Philippines.
A spokesman for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that international airspace operates routine flights in accordance with international law and that the language in the broadcast is consistent with US military aviation units operating in the Indo-Pacific.
On the same day, Taiwan sent jets to fend off six Chinese planes, including two H-6 bombers and a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, according to the island's defense ministry.
China's Defense Ministry and Taiwan Affairs Bureau did not respond to requests for comment.
"FROM OUR DOOR"
Hsu and his team have set up a dozen hilltop recording sites across Taiwan. Using these stations and flight-tracking apps, Hsu counted 317 Taiwan alerts for Chinese warplanes from the beginning of the year to early May, up 3% from the same period last year.
The story goes on
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