The Shandong aircraft carrier moved about 50 kilometers from the island of Kinmen controlled by Taiwan, right before the phone call of the leaders of China – US.
“The Shandong aircraft carrier, codename CV-17, appeared southwest of Kinmen Island at 10:30 am today. A passenger on a civilian plane took a picture of this warship,” said an unnamed source in the force. Taiwan ‘s defense force told Military Cognizance.
The US destroyer USS Ralph Johnson followed the Shandong on part of its journey. The Chinese warship sailed southward across the Taiwan Strait and there were no aircraft on the deck. The Taiwan Self-Defense Force deployed warships to monitor the situation. The island’s defense agency confirmed the Shandong ship’s activities but did not give details, emphasizing that Taipei was “well aware” of the activities of warships and aircraft deployed by Beijing in the Taiwan Strait.
US Navy spokesman Mark Langford said the destroyer USS Ralph Johnson “conducted a normal cruise through international waters in the Taiwan Strait on March 17”, but did not disclose further information.
The trip took place 12 hours before Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with US President Joe Biden . Reuters’ unnamed source said the move was “provocative” and unusual, as the Chinese warship passed through the Taiwan Strait during the day, instead of at night like previous operations.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the Shandong aircraft carrier was on a “routinely planned training mission”. “This should not be associated with the phone call between the heads of China and the United States. You may think it is too sensitive. The sensitive thing is you, not the Taiwan Strait,” he added.
China’s Ministry of National Defense was not immediately available for comment.
China has always considered Taiwan as a province awaiting reunification and vowed to use force if necessary. In recent years, the Chinese military has continuously increased military pressure on Taiwan by traditional and non-traditional methods. In addition to flights close to the island with a record high number of aircraft, the Chinese military also conducted many landing exercises to occupy the coast near Taiwan.
Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen late last month ordered forces to maintain vigilance, increase surveillance and improve combat readiness, amid the escalating Ukraine crisis.