Taiwan scrambled fighters and naval vessels as China sent its sole aircraft carrier battle group into the Taiwan Strait early Wednesday morning.
As the Chinese carrier group led by the Liaoning entered the strait, Taiwan dispatched several F-16s and a P-3C anti-submarine aircraft, as well as a frigate, to monitor the movement of Chinese naval forces, the Ministry of National Defense revealed.
China forces entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone; however, they did not enter Taiwan’s territorial waters.
“I want to emphasize our government has sufficient capability to protect our national security. It is not necessary to overly panic,” Chang Hsiao-yueh, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, explained Wednesday during a press conference, according to Reuters.
“On the other hand, any threats would not benefit cross-Strait ties,” she further stated.
Communication between Beijing and Taipei was suspended in June shortly after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected. The tense situation was exacerbated by Tsai’s phone call to President-elect Donald Trump in early December and Trump’s questioning of the one-China policy one week later.
The U.S. decision to allow Tsai to stop in Houston this past weekend on her way to Latin America also agitated China.
“It’s all connected,” Ni Lexiong, a naval affairs researcher at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told the New York Times. “Since Trump won the election, his words and actions have touched China’s bottom line. I think this was directed at American and Taiwanese authorities.”
“It’s a show of force,” Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained to reporters, “I think it is intended, in part, to intimidate.”
“That’s worrisome from the U.S. and Taiwan’s point of view because we don’t know how much more they are going to ratchet up these pressures and tensions,” she added.
The Liaoning entered the Taiwan Strait once before in 2014.
In recent weeks, the Liaoning has drilled in the Bohai Sea, Western Pacific, and South China Sea. China argues that these exercises are “routine drills.”
It is unclear which People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships accompanied the Liaoning into the Taiwan Strait. The carrier was reportedly accompanied by the Linyi and Yantai, two Type 054A Jiangkai-II-class frigates, and the Zhengzhou, Haikou, and Changsha, three Type 052D Luyang-III-class destroyers, during the December drills.
The rounding of Taiwan with China’s carrier battle group, follows the deployment of Chinese bombers to circle Taiwan, which China views as a separatist province.
“The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway shared between the mainland and Taiwan. So, it is normal for the Liaoning to go back and forth through the Taiwan Strait in the course of training, and it won’t have any impact on cross-Strait relations,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said of the Chinese carrier group’s activities.
“China is committed to promoting peace and stability in this region,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued Wednesday in the preface to a Cabinet report on China’s policies on Asia-Pacific security cooperation.”
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