First China-made carrier sails through Taiwan Strait
A Taiwanese minister accused China of intimidation ahead of upcoming elections after Beijing sent its first domestically-built aircraft carrier to sail through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, Taipei’s defence ministry said.
China, which sees self-ruled democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, has stepped up military drills around the island since Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016.
Taipei’s foreign minister Joseph Wu tweeted that China “intends to intervene in #Taiwan’s elections”, adding: “Voters won’t be intimidated!”
The defence ministry said in a statement reassuring the public it had dispatched ships and planes to track and closely monitor the carrier’s movements.
It added ships from the United States and Japan trailed the carrier in the strait.
Beijing has also ramped up diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan as Tsai’s government refuses to acknowledge the island is part of “one China.”
Tsai — who has voiced support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement — is seeking a second term against a challenger who favours much warmer relations with China.
She has described the January elections as a fight for Taiwan’s freedom and democracy.
Earlier Sunday Tsai announced former premier William Lai, who has styled himself as a “Taiwan independence worker,” as her running mate in a move likely to irritate Beijing.
In a statement about the ship sailing through the strait, Tsai’s office said: “It is a joint responsibility and goal to maintain peace and stability between the two sides… Beijing should cherish peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and in the region that have not come easily”.
Most recently China’s Liaoning — a repurposed Soviet carrier bought from Ukraine that went into service in 2012 — passed through the Taiwan Strait in June.
US navy ships periodically conduct “freedom of navigation” operations in the Taiwan Strait, while Canadian and French ships had also sailed through the narrow waterway separating Taiwan from the Chinese mainland this year.
China views any passing through the strait as a breach of its territorial sovereignty — while the US and many other nations see the route as international space.