Taiwan scrambles jets as Chinese aircraft carrier sails through Taiwan Strait

The aircraft carrier Liaoning passed through an area Taiwan regards as a protected air defense identification zone.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  Jan. 11, 2017 at 10:02 AM
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TAIPEI, Taiwan, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Taiwan scrambled military jets and a ship Wednesday to monitors the movement of China's aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan's official news agency said.

The Liaoning, China's only aircraft carrier, entered the strait, part of Taiwan's air defense identification zone, after training exercises in the South China Sea. The carrier is returning to its base in northeastern China. The transit of the vessel comes amid rising tension between Taiwan and China after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen by phone after his election. The breach of protocol outraged Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and not a nation.

"It's a show of force, and I think it is intended in part to intimidate, and that's worrisome from the U.S. and Taiwan's point of view because we don't know how much more they are going to ratchet up these pressures and tensions," Bonnie S. Glaser of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies said of the aircraft carrier's movement, the New York Times reported. "If the Trump administration does see this as a test of U.S. resolve, I suspect they'll push back pretty forcefully."

Taiwan's Central News Agency said Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, an anti-submarine plane and a frigate to monitor the aircraft carrier. The vessel entered the identification zone from the southwest at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Taiwan's Ministry of National defense said. Passage through the strait for an aircraft carrier is a 10-hour trip.

Taiwanese lawmakers regarded the arrival of the aircraft carrier as a warning from China. Lawmaker Lo-Chih-cheng called it more of a "diplomatic intimidation" than a military threat. Taiwanese President Tsai is currently visiting Central America to reaffirm bilateral ties after Sao Tome and Principe, a small island nation off the African coast, severed ties with Taiwan and established them with China in December.

Earlier this week, Japan and South Korea each scrambled their military fighter planes in response to a squadron of Chinese aircraft, which flew over water separating China from the two countries.

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