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Chinese aircraft carrier enters Taiwan Strait
January 11, 2017, 12:37 pm

The Liaoning has been carrying out drills in the South China Sea since early December [Xinhua]

The Liaoning has been carrying out drills in the South China Sea since early December [Xinhua]

Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi told media on Wednesday that Taipei launched a number of fighter jets as part of a surveillance mission in response to the passage of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and several warships in tow through the Taiwan Strait.

The Taiwan Strait borders the South China Sea, where the Liaoning had been conducting drills and testing new weapons.

Chen emphasized that the Liaoning did not enter Taiwan’s waters.

Taiwanese officials have said there should be no rush to panic.

Liu Zhenmin, China’s vice-minister of foreign affairs, has also downplayed the event saying that the Chinese navy routinely conducts drills in its waters and other maritime regions for the purpose of training.

The Liaoning is China’s sole aircraft carrier; last week China’s foreign ministry said that the Liaoning was also conducting weapons tests with the other vessels from the navy.

The country’s J-15 fighter jets conducted a number of flight exercises, taking off from the Liaoning.

This exercise is not the first of its kind. In mid-December, China conducted the first live-fire drill using the Liaoning and the J-15 jets in close proximity to the Korean Peninsula. It also sailed into the Bohai Sea off the northeastern Chinese coast, and patrolled in the Western Pacific near Japan’s Okinawa and Taiwan.

But the drills come amid a war of terse words between Chinese officials and US President-elect Donald Trump, and other senior members of the Republican Party, over Asia-Pacific policy.

As recently as Monday, China strongly protested a meeting between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen transiting though the US on her way to Central America.

“We are firmly opposed to the Taiwan leader’s engagement with US officials under the pretext of transit, and her attempt to undermine China-US relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters.

He urged the US to abide by the “One China policy” and “prudently handle” Taiwan-related issues.

“We urge the United States and relevant people to stick to the one-China policy and the three China-US joint communiques, and carefully handle issues related to Taiwan, in order not to harm China-US relations and cross-Strait peace and prosperity,” Lu added in statements carried by Chinese press.

The sudden rise of tensions began in early December when Trump said he was critical of the One China policy.

“I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump said on Fox News Sunday.

Trump had also been quoted by US media as being critical of China’s policies on trade and the economy as well as North Korea.

Since then, Trump’s foreign policy outlook in the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a potential stumbling block in China-US relations after North American media said there was a growing divide between the two powers since the president-elect took a ‘congratulatory’ call from Taiwan’s prime minister.

“We urge the new US leader and the government to fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, continue to stick to the one-China policy and the three Joint Communiques between China and the United States, and discreetly deal with Taiwan-related issues so as to prevent China-US relations from being severely disturbed and damaged,” a spokesperson said in December.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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