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Amid rising China incursions, Taiwanese Air Force pilot dies in 3rd crash this year

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A Taiwanese AT-3 trainer jet similar to this one crashed on Tuesday and killed the pilot. It was the third accident this year for the Taiwanese Air Force. File Photo by Toshiro Aoki/www.jp-spotters.com
A Taiwanese AT-3 trainer jet similar to this one crashed on Tuesday and killed the pilot. It was the third accident this year for the Taiwanese Air Force. File Photo by Toshiro Aoki/www.jp-spotters.com

May 31 (UPI) -- A Taiwanese Air Force pilot died Tuesday in a crash of his AT-3 trainer jet, marking the island's third military plane accident of the year as China continues to apply pressure with frequent aircraft incursions.

The Taiwan-made jet, which was flown solo by Lieutenant Hsu Ta-Chun, disappeared from radar five minutes after taking off on a training exercise and crashed in the southern city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said.

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The crash came a day after China sent 30 military aircraft into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone, its largest incursion since January.

The sortie included 22 fighter jets as well as electronic warfare, intelligence and early-warning aircraft, Taiwan's defense ministry said. It took place as U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth arrived on an unannounced three-day visit to discuss regional security and trade issues with officials including Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

RELATED Duckworth makes surprise trip to Taiwan amid rising U.S.-China tensions

Taiwan's military has called China's provocations "gray zone" warfare meant to strain the self-governing island's defense capabilities and wear down its morale.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to retake it by force, if necessary.

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U.S. President Joe Biden walks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a welcome ceremony at the Akasaka Palace guest house in Tokyo, Japan, during Biden's visit on May 23. Photo via The White House/UPI

During a visit to Asia last week, U.S. President Joe Biden ruffled feathers in Beijing by declaring that the United States would come to Taiwan's aid militarily if China launched an invasion -- which is a stronger position than Washington's stated "strategic ambiguity" policy. He cautioned that China was "already flirting with danger right now by flying so close" to Taiwan.

RELATED Biden: Taiwan policy of 'strategic ambiguity' has not changed

Biden and his administration later walked back the support for Taiwan some and restated commitment to the "One China" policy.

In response, nonetheless, China's military later said that it conducted readiness patrols and combat drills near Taiwan as a "solemn warning to the recent U.S.-Taiwan collusion activities," according to a statement by Senior Col. Shi Yi of China's Eastern Theater Command.

China and Russia also conducted joint bomber drills over the Sea of Japan during Biden's visit to Asia last week, which included stops in South Korea and Japan as the White House looked to strengthen alliances in the region in response to Beijing's growing assertiveness.

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Tuesday's AT-3 crash is the third such accident so far in 2022. In March, a Taiwanese Mirage fighter jet went down in the sea during a routine combat training mission, with the pilot able to safely eject. In January, a Taiwanese F-16 crashed into the sea during a drill, killing the pilot.

RELATED U.S., Japan hold fighter jet drills after China bomber flight, North Korea missiles

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