Taipei, July 12 (IANS) Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence on Wednesday urged its population to be calm as China’s aircraft carrier and an accompanying fleet passed through the Formosa Strait, a few kilometres from Taiwan.
After its historic visit to Hong Kong, where it arrived for the first time on July 7 as part of celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Beijing, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning is returning to base in Qingdao, EFE news reported.
The Liaoning left Hong Kong at Tuesday noon and entered Taiwan’s defence zone on Wednesday, travelling in a northerly direction via the western side of the Taiwan Strait, a Defence Ministry statement said.
The Taiwanese military has sent airplanes and ships to monitor the passage of Liaoning and its fleet across the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from mainland China, and said that nothing unusual has been reported so far, in addition to urging the population to be calm.
The Chinese fleet’s passage comes at a time of tension between Taipei and Beijing, following Washington’s recent announcement on the sale of a cutting-edge weaponry package worth $1.42 billion.
The Chinese fleet consists of the aircraft carrier Liaoning, the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, the frigate Yantai and a squadron of J-15 fighter aircraft and helicopters.
The Liaoning has already crossed the Taiwan Strait twice — once in January and again earlier this month, when the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was on a diplomatic tour of Latin America.
Tensions between China and Taiwan have increased since May 2016, with Tsai’s rise to power and her adamant stance against Beijing’s request to declare the island a part of China.
China and Taiwan have maintained a sovereignty dispute for decades, and Beijing has refused to renounce the use of force to resolve the dispute over the island’s status.