Hong Kong, Jan 13, 2017: China on Wednesday sent its only aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Strait, prompting Taiwanese authorities to scramble jets, media reports said.
Taiwan scrambled F-16 fighter jets and a P-3C anti-submarine plane in response, and its navy dispatched a frigate to monitor the Liaoning’s movement, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency, the New York Times said.
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This development may ratchet up the tensions between China and Taiwan — a self-ruled island — which Beijing claims as its own and vows to reunite forcibly if necessary.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said the Taiwan Strait was an international waterway and that it was normal for the Liaoning to pass though it.
The defiant move signals China’s growing naval strength and may foreshadow an early foreign policy challenge for US President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office in nine days, the New York Times said.
The transit of the aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which had been conducting exercises in the South China Sea, comes amid rising tensions between Taiwan and China, and after Trump broke decades of protocol by speaking on the phone with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen after his election victory.
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party has traditionally supported Taiwan’s formal independence from China.
In her first public address, Taiwan’s first woman President did not mention “One China Policy”, angering Beijing which considers it as part of mainland.
Further, Tsai recently halted in the US on her way to Central America, inviting Bejing’s wrath.
China is increasingly becoming assertive on the seas, patrolling and conducting drills. Last Sunday, Liaoning, a Ukraine-built vessel, sailed into the waters around the disputed Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea. (IANS)