Tensions up as China says carrier group will hold regular drills near Taiwan

SHANGHAI • A Chinese carrier group is conducting exercises near Taiwan, and such drills will become regular, China's navy has said, in a further escalation of cross-strait tensions.

Taiwan has complained of an increase in Chinese military activity near the island in recent months, as China stepped up efforts to assert its sovereignty over the democratically run island, which receives weapons and other support from the United States.

The US Navy said yesterday that its Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group entered the South China Sea on Sunday to conduct routine operations, its second such visit this year, amid rising US-China tensions.

China's navy said late on Monday that its carrier group, led by the Liaoning, the country's first aircraft carrier put into active service, was carrying out "routine" drills in the waters near Taiwan.

The aim is to "enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty, safety and development interests", it said. "Similar exercises will be conducted on a regular basis in the future," the navy added, without elaborating.

China's statement follows Taiwan's Defence Ministry reporting a new incursion by China's air force into the island's air defence identification zone on Monday.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said it had a "full grasp" of the situation in the air and in the sea surrounding Taiwan and that it was "appropriately handling" the matter.

Japan's Defence Ministry said on Sunday that the Liaoning, accompanied by five escort ships, had transited the Miyako Strait on its way to the Pacific.

China's Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, noted that the Nanchang, the first of a powerful new fleet of Type 055 destroyers that entered service last year, was part of the carrier group.

"The combination of aircraft carriers and Type 055 large destroyers will become a standard configuration of Chinese aircraft carrier task groups in the future," it added.

The Liaoning and its sister ship Shandong have carried out drills or sailed near Taiwan before.

Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial issue and a potential military flashpoint. China has never renounced the use of force to reunite with the island.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is overseeing a revamp of the island's military, rolling out new equipment such as "carrier killer" stealth corvettes.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2021, with the headline 'Tensions up as China says carrier group will hold regular drills near Taiwan'. Subscribe