Chinese aircraft carrier crosses Taiwan Strait

Taiwan’s defense ministry said three Chinese ships, including the aircraft carrier Shandong, crossed the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, which has turned into a geopolitical powder keg in recent years.

“A three-ship PLA (People’s Liberation Army) flotilla led by the aircraft carrier Shandong passed through the Taiwan Strait around noon today,” the island’s ministry said in a statement.

The ships headed “northward west of the median line,” referring to this invisible border unilaterally drawn by the United States during the Cold War that Beijing refuses to recognize.

While the presence of Chinese warships in the Taiwan Strait is constantly monitored and announced almost daily by Taipei, the aircraft carrier Shandong is unusual.

Taiwan’s armed forces “monitored the situation and tasked (civilian air patrol) aircraft, navy ships and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities,” the island’s ministry said.

According to the island’s defense ministry, 33 warplanes and 10 ships were “detected at 6 am” on Saturday. The day before, 11 ships were near Taiwanese waters.

Since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, China has viewed Taiwan as a province that it has yet to successfully reunite with the rest of its territory.

– Power performance –

According to Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, the aircraft carrier Shandong’s passage through the Taiwan Strait is “very unusual”.

“But the Chinese have been trying to demonstrate their military power around Taiwan for the past six months or the past year,” he told AFP. Thus, according to Mr. Tsang, Shandong’s presence in the strait is part of this “general context”.

The last time Taiwanese officials reported the presence of a Chinese aircraft carrier in the Taiwan Strait was in March 2022. It was deployed there ahead of a phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei, which were at an all-time low since Xi Jinping came to power more than 10 years ago, have deteriorated in recent years as China ramped up military incursions around the island.

This latest show of force from Beijing comes just a month after the end of its major military maneuvers around the island in April that aimed to encircle Taiwan for three days.

During these exercises, Beijing conducted targeted bombardments against the autonomous island and enclave of Taiwan, whose officials detected 12 Chinese warships and 91 aircraft on the last day of operations.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said at the time that the fighters were also deployed from China’s aircraft carrier Shandong and crossed the middle line.

The military maneuvers by China came days after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to which Beijing promised to respond.

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