China sails aircraft carrier past Taiwan after leader warns of military expansion

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
By Paul Martin

CHINA has upped the pressure on neighbouring Taiwan by sailing an aircraft carrier through the strait which divides the two countries in an unmistakeable show of strength as tensions escalate in the region.

Wed, Jan 17, 2018

The incident is the latest in a series of military drills undertaken by the superpower around the island, which analysts believe are partially motivated by irritation on the part of Beijing at recently elected Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-Wen’s push for formal independence.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said a group of Chinese ships led by the Liaoning aircraft carrier – China’s only operational vessel of this type – entered the southwestern part of the Taiwan Strait in the early hours of Tuesday, though it stayed on the Chinese side of the waterway.

As of midday today, the carrier group had left Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone heading north, the ministry said, adding it had monitored the group’s movements throughout.

The statement said: “While the group was passing through the Taiwan Strait there were no abnormal activities, and people can rest easy.”

China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the Soviet-era Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, has passed through the Taiwan Strait before on its way to and from exercises in the South China Sea.

While heavily travelled by commercial shipping and flights, the Taiwan Strait, which is just 80 miles wide at its narrowest, is also a sensitive military zone.

In December, Mrs Tsai, who was elected as Taiwan’s President two years ago as the candidate of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, said China’s frequent air and naval drills showed “its intentions for military expansion in the region are getting more and more obvious”.

She warned growing military pressure from mainland China was not just a situation facing Taiwan, but for all countries in the region.

Following her election victory, Mrs Tsai invoked the wrath of Beijing by refusing to accept the so-called 1992 Consensus, which stresses that mainland Taiwan and China are part of “one China”, with the mainland cutting off channels of communication with her administration.

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