On Wednesday, China’s only aircraft carrier, The Liaoning, has entered the Taiwan Strait It entered the southwest of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) at 07:00 local time (23:00 GMT), along with escort vessels, the defense ministry said. By midday, it was moving north along the mainland’s coast. The aircraft carrier has not entered Taiwanese waters but has gone into an area covered by the island’s air defense zone, the defense ministry added.
According to Taiwanese media, the F-16 fighter jets and other aircraft were dispatched Tuesday night to monitor the Chinese carrier group. The defense ministry have not confirmed those reports.
“The military is monitoring the whole situation and will act as necessary. We urge Taiwan’s people to be at ease,” it said in a statement.
“There is no need for us to overly panic,” said the chairwoman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which handles Taiwan’s relationship with Beijing.
“The national security council has a good grasp of the situation. We are doing what is necessary,” Chang Hsiao-yueh told reporters at an end-of-year briefing.
“The government has sufficient capabilities to defend our country’s safety,” she added.
Beijing has upped its military drills near Taiwan in recent weeks after president Tsai Ing-wen made a congratulatory phone call to US president-elect Donald Trump, and by a subsequent transit stop by Tsai in the US.
China considers Taiwan a rogue province to be brought back into its fold. The US is the island’s most powerful ally and main arms supplier, despite having no official diplomatic relations since recognizing Beijing in 1979. Despite protests from Beijing, Tsai visited the US at the weekend on a transit to Central America. On Saturday, she stopped in Houston and met with Republican Senator Ted Cruz during her stay, which was slammed by Beijing as an attempt to “undermine China-US relations.”
This week, she is visiting Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador — among the dwindling number of states that have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan instead of with Beijing. While the focus of her visit is to bolster ties with allies, her US stopovers are being closely watched with speculation she may make contact with Trump and his team.
According to experts, the manoeuvres of the second-hand, Soviet-built Liaoning are “symbolic” rather than any real military threat.
The Liaoning has been carrying out its first exercise in the Pacific and already passed south of Taiwan last month.