Chinese aircraft passes through Taiwan Strait to complete full-circle voyage around Taiwan
By Joseph Yeh
11 January 2017

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) - Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang calls the latest intimidation “unhelpful” for already tense cross-strait relations.

Taiwan's military reportedly scrambled jets and navy ships to monitor the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning as it passed through the Taiwan Strait, Wednesday.

The Liaoning, leading a Chinese fleet, entered Taiwan's Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) from the southwest at 7am Wednesday and continued to sail north along the Taiwan Strait, apparently on their way back to China from the South China Sea after training exercises, the Ministry of National Defence (MND) said in a statement.

In response, the MND scrambled F-16 and IDF fighter jets, P-3C surveillance aircraft, and Navy frigates, to monitor the Chinese fleet, according to sources cited by the Central News Agency. The MND neither confirmed nor denied the responsive action, according to the CNA.

The fleet passed through seas off Shantou city on the eastern coast of Guangdong province in Chinese mainland, around noon, according to the MND, while Taiwan's armed forces were closely monitoring their movements

A national security source said the military estimated that it may take 10 hours before the aircraft carrier and the warships escorting it exit the Taiwan Strait as the fleet returns to Qingdao.

The passage will mark the completion of a two-stage circumnavigation of Taiwan island by the Chinese.

The Liaoning previously sailed south in the Pacific off Taiwan's eastern coast on December 26 before entering the South China Sea for a training mission earlier this month.

The upcoming passage will mark the third time the aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait since its commission in September 2012. The previous two times occurred in November and December 2013.

President calls nation to stay calm 

The latest incident occurred at a sensitive time, with  the move seen by local experts and lawmakers as a means of sending a warning to Taiwan with President Tsai Ing-wen currently in Central America. 

In response, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang, who accompanied Tsai during her visit to Taiwan’s four diplomatic allies, told reporters the president was keeping close tabs on the movements of Liaoning.

Tsai had telephoned Chen Chun-lin, deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council and Defence Minister Feng shih-kuan on Wednesday morning to learn the latest updates of the Chinese fleet and Taiwan military’s responsive measures, Huang said.

Tsai called ordered her national security team to closely monitor the movements of the Chinese warships and asked the public to put their minds at rest, Huang said.

Unhelpful to Cross-Strait relations 

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang, meanwhile, called the latest intimidation “unhelpful” for already tense cross-strait relations.

Lawmakers across party lines all expressed concerns over China’s latest military capability demonstrations with the fleet amid strained cross-strait ties.

Lawmaker Lo Chih-cheng of the Democratic Progressive Party described it as a move that undermined peace and stability in the region.
Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Chi-chen called it a “warning signal sent by China to Taiwan.”

Commenting on the incident, military expert Erich Shih said that China is "making a political statement" that it has the ability to put pressure on Taiwan whenever it wants to.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that the US government did not want to see shows of force or any kind of escalation.

Toner said he was not aware of the Chinese aircraft carrier’s passage through the Taiwan Strait when asked by a Taiwanese reporter during a regular news briefing. 

He reiterated that United States recognized the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and the airspace that’s guaranteed to all countries in accordance with international law. He said he hoped the Chinese fleet’s passage was not meant to escalate regional tension.

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