Chinese naval flotilla led by aircraft carrier sails past Taiwan coasts

TAIPEI • A Chinese naval flotilla led by China's first aircraft carrier passed by the eastern and southern coasts of Taiwan yesterday to carry out drills, said the island's Defence Ministry, in the latest uptick in military tensions.

Democratically ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its sacred territory, has complained of an increased Chinese military presence nearby in the past few weeks, and has told China it should be concentrating on fighting the coronavirus rather than menacing the island.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said the Liaoning, China's first operational aircraft carrier, and five accompanying warships passed first through the Miyako Strait, located between Japan's islands of Miyako and Okinawa, to the north-east of Taiwan last Saturday.

Yesterday, the carrier group sailed in waters on Taiwan's east coast and then into seas to the south of Taiwan, carrying out exercises, the ministry added in a statement.

Taiwan's armed forces monitored the carrier group's progress throughout and "completed relevant actions in response to ensure national security and protect regional peace and stability", it added, without elaborating. Taiwan typically scrambles fighter jets in response to Chinese manoeuvres.

China's two aircraft carriers are no strangers to the waters around Taiwan.

In late December, shortly before elections in Taiwan, China's newest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, a move condemned by Taiwan as intimidation.

The United States military has also been active in waters near Taiwan recently.

A US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed through the Taiwan Strait last Friday, the same day that Chinese fighter jets held drills in waters close to the island.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2020, with the headline 'Chinese naval flotilla led by aircraft carrier sails past Taiwan coasts'. Print Edition | Subscribe