Ahead of a scheduled call between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, a Chinese aircraft carrier reportedly sailed through the Taiwan Strait.
Just 12 hours before the two presidents were meant to speak, a Chinese carrier, Shandong, traveled without men on its deck close to the Taiwan-controlled island of Kinmen, a source inside the Taiwan Defense Ministry confirmed to Reuters.
“Around 10:30 a.m., the CV-17 appeared 30 nautical miles to the southwest of Kinmen and was photographed by a passenger on a civilian flight,” the source told Reuters.
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 18, 2022
A U.S. guided-missile destroyer, the USS Ralph Johnson, shadowed the Shandong for part of the Chinese carrier’s travel through the strait, the anonymous source also told the outlet. The U.S. Navy confirmed that the USS Ralph Johnson was in the Taiwan Strait on Mar. 17, when the crossing allegedly occurred, but didn’t say whether the carrier followed the Chinese ship.
The USS Ralph Johnson “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit March 17 (local time) through international waters in accordance with international law,” U.S. Navy spokesperson Lt. Mark Langford said to Reuters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tried to dispel any connection to the Shandong’s actions in the Taiwan Strait and the upcoming call between U.S. and China.
“We should not associate this with the communication between the heads of state of China and the United States. You may think it is too sensitive. What is sensitive is you, not the Taiwan Strait,” Zhao said, reported Reuters.
All eyes have been on Taiwan after China refused to accept Taiwan’s status as a democratic country and has spent the past two years increasing its military aggression toward the small nation China views as part of its own territory. (RELATED: As The World Fractures, China’s Threats About Taiwan Could Not Be Any Clearer)
A Democratic Progressive Party senior lawmaker from Taiwan, Lo Chih-cheng called the Chinese carrier appearance near Kinmen a “very provocative message,” reported Reuters.
“Tensions across the Taiwan Strait won’t rise sharply because of this, but it will likely cause neighboring countries to raise their military alert level,” Chih-cheng warned Reuters.