China’s navy announced Monday that the carrier group -- which was led by its newest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, and accompanied by four other ships -- had “smoothly” transited the strategic and narrow Taiwan Strait on Sunday, heading to the naval maneuvers in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its sovereign territory, but which is also disputed by some US-allied countries in the region.
The navy further noted that the drills were part of the normal arrangements that were made under annual plans, adding, “In the future, we will continue to organize similar operations based on training needs.”
The development comes against the background of heightened tensions between Beijing on the one side, and Washington and Taipei on the other. Just a day earlier, China said its naval forces had tailed and monitored American guided missile destroyer USS Mustin sailing through the Taiwan Strait, censuring the move for “seriously jeopardizing peace and stability in the Strait.”
As the Chinese carrier group sailed through the sensitive waterway, Taiwan mobilized its military forces to monitor the passage so close to the island territory. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the Shandong, escorted by four warships, had set out from China’s northern port of Dalian on Thursday. The ministry further noted that it had dispatched six warships and eight military aircraft to “stand guard” and monitor the movements of the Chinese carrier group.
The Shandong is China’s second aircraft carrier that was formally commissioned nearly a year ago. The Chinese navy said it had successfully completed tasks such as carrier-based aircraft take-off and landing and the use of its weapons.