In the latest sign of intensified frictions involving Beijing and the self-ruled Taiwan, the latter scrambled jets and navy ships on Wednesday as a collection of Chinese warships led by China’s solitary aircraft carrier cruised north through the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said the Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier, coming back from exercises in the South China Sea, was not encroaching in Taiwan’s territorial waters but went into its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the southwest.
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said that as a result, Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships to “surveil and control” the transit of the Chinese ships across the narrow body of water dividing Taiwan and China.
He said that Taiwanese military ships and aircraft have been positioned to trail the carrier group, which is sailing up the west side of the median line of the strait.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s top policymaker for China affairs pressed Beijing to resume dialogue with Taipei, following the suspension of official communication channels by Beijing from June.
During a news briefing in response to reporters’ queries on the Liaoning’s actions, Taiwan’s minister for Mainland Affairs Council Chang Hsiao-yueh said, “I want to emphasize our government has sufficient capability to protect our national security. It’s not necessary to overly panic.”
“On the other hand, any threats would not benefit cross-Strait ties,” she added.
“Show of ‘Strategic Force'”
China has said the Liaoning aircraft carrier was on maneuvers in the disputed South China Sea to put weapons and equipment to the test and its movements conform to international law.
On Tuesday, a U.S. official said a Chinese bomber flew around the Spratly Islands on the weekend in a show of “strategic force”.
The latest Chinese naval exercises have unsettled Beijing’s neighbors, especially Taiwan which Beijing asserts as its own, given long-running territorial disagreements in the South China Sea.
China claims most of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which approximately $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year. Neighbors Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei also have their claims.
China distrusts Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and has increased pressure on her after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump disregarded years of diplomatic protocol and took a congratulatory call last month from Tsai.
Trump then irked China by casting doubt on the “one China” policy that Beijing considers as the core of U.S.-Chinese relations.
On Sunday, Tsai elicited irritation from China again when she conferred with senior U.S. Republican lawmakers in Houston on her way to Central America, in a controversial transit stop that Beijing had requested the United States to not permit.
Beijing believes Tsai wants to press on towards the island’s formal independence, a red line for the mainland, which has never relinquished the use of force to bring what it considers a renegade province under its control.