by WorldTribune Staff, March 21, 2018
China dispatched its lone operational aircraft carrier to the Taiwan Strait, entering waters that are part of the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Taiwan’s defense minister said.
Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa told Taiwan’s parliament that the Liaoning entered the narrow strait that separates China from Taiwan on March 20, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported.
Yen said Taiwan’s army is monitoring all Chinese drills and is prepared to answer “as needed,” according to CNA.
Related: U.S. ships missiles to Taiwan after China opens new air route over Straits, Jan. 30, 2018
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the Liaoning had exited Taiwan’s ADIZ around 12:30 p.m. on March 21 to travel in a southwesterly direction.
The Liaoning had previously entered Taiwan’s ADIZ on Jan. 16.
The aircraft carrier’s transit of the strait comes amid increased tension over recent developments in the region.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on March 19 slammed comments by Taiwan Premier William Lai that Taiwan is an independent country, saying it was a “serious provocation” and that Taiwan was not and could never be a country.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned Taiwan against any attempt at separatism.
“All acts and schemes to split China are doomed to failure and will be condemned by the people and punished by history,” Xi told the closing session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on March 18. “The Chinese people have the firm will, full confidence and sufficient ability to defeat all activities to split the country.”
Though current Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-win said she wants to maintain the status quo, China is said to be fearful that the Taiwanese leader, elected in 2016, will push for formal independence, a “red line” for Beijing.
China was angered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s signing into law last week of the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages a “robust unofficial relationship” through increased ties between the U.S. and Taiwan at all levels, from tourism to diplomats.
“The passing of the act is a serious political provocation, as it has crossed the ‘red line’ and will thoroughly undermine relations,” The Global Times quotes retired People’s Liberation Army major general Xu Guangyu as saying.