Taiwan: China aircraft carrier sailing in Taiwan Strait
11 Jan 2017 - 12:38
BEIJING: Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday that China’s first aircraft carrier was sailing in the Taiwan Strait amid increased tensions between the mainland and the island territory it considers a breakaway province.
Taiwan’s official Central News Agency cited a ministry press release as saying that the Liaoning aircraft carrier and accompanying naval vessels entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone from the southwest in the morning.
Earlier this month, China’s military confirmed that the naval formation held takeoff and landing drills in the disputed South China Sea.
Wednesday’s press release said Taiwan's armed forces were closely monitoring the formation’s movements but did not address local reports about warplanes being deployed as part of the efforts.
The development comes while Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is visiting Nicaragua as part of a four-nation tour in Central America.
In recent weeks, the Liaoning had conducted training -- including its first live-fire exercise earlier this month -- in the Yellow Sea, the Bohai Sea and East China Sea.
The Liaoning is a refitted Russian-made carrier delivered from Ukraine to China’s People's Liberation Army in September 2012.
In January, the national defense ministry announced that China is designing and building its second aircraft carrier, a 50,000-ton carrier that would be entirely of independent Chinese design and powered conventionally rather than by nuclear energy.
China has been modernizing its naval capacity at a time when the United States and its allies -- including Japan -- are expressing alarm at its maritime expansion, which they suspect is aimed at extending its military reach.
China has conflicting claims to parts of the South China Sea with Taiwan and several countries in Southeast Asia, and to an island chain in the East China Sea with Japan.
Tensions between China and Taiwan -- which Beijing considers a breakaway province -- have been mounting since Tsai’s traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won the January election, securing its first majority in the island’s parliament.
Since Chinese nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan in 1949 after a brutal civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists, China has seen the region as a breakaway province that will eventually return.