China has dispatched its first domestically-made aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Strait, in a move which Taipei described as an “intimidation” tactic ahead of the islands presidential election.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement that Beijing had sailed its new aircraft carrier, the Shandong, north through the Strait, without saying exactly when this voyage took place.
“Their entire activities were monitored by our military and we are sure to protect the country’s safety and regional peace and stability,” said the statement.
The carrier group was accompanied by frigates, according to the statement.
Taiwan’s presidential office also reacted to the maneuver, saying “Beijing should cherish peace and stability across the strait and in the region, which are not easy to come by.”
China considers the self-ruled island as a wayward province under the globally-recognized “One China” policy. It has pursued Taiwan’s reunification ever since the island broke away from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over the island; and almost all world countries, including the US, recognize that sovereignty.
The US, however, has long courted Taipei in an attempt to counter Beijing. The US — which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei by law — has extensive military ties with Taipei, selling advanced military hardware to the island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has previously warned that Beijing reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”
A senior Taiwan official accused China on Thursday of trying to meddle in Taiwan’s presidential election — due to be held in January — “by flexing military muscles” in the region.
“China is trying to intimidate non-aligned voters,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Earlier on Thursday, the Chinese defense ministry said everything was going “smoothly” with the new carrier, though did not comment on its deployments.
“It will continue to conduct trials and training, and form a combat capability through training. We will make an overall consideration about its deployment according to the situation and task needs,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Wu Qian.
The warship, which is China’s second largest, has entered service at a base in the South China Sea last week.
Last month it sailed through the Taiwan Strait as part of a routine exercise, on its way to the South China Sea.