China's first indigenous aircraft carrier transits Taiwan Strait

12/26/2019 10:37 PM
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Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong
Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong's first sea trial in May 2018 (Photo courtesy of China News Service)

Taipei, Dec. 26 (CNA) China's first domestically-built aircraft carrier "Shandong" is sailing through the Taiwan Strait as of Thursday evening, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a statement.

The Shandong, together with escort ships, entered the Taiwan Strait from the south, sailing northwards, the ministry said, adding that it is monitoring the vessel and is ready for any contingency.

The transit happened less than three weeks before Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11, 2020.

The Shandong, named after a northern province in China, was officially commissioned on Dec. 17 in the southern naval base of Sanya, Hainan Province, more than six years after construction started.

The carrier's first sea trial took place in May 2018 in the Bohai Sea, according to Chinese media reports.

MND records show that Chinese aircraft carriers have passed through the Taiwan Strait six times since 2017, including today's transit. The first four times were by the aircraft carrier Liaoning, while the last two times were by the Shandong.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) notes in its latest assessment report on China's military development that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) plans to have four carrier battle groups by 2030.

The INDSR report, released on Dec. 6, further said the reason China has constructed artificial islands and militarized the South China Sea, is to be able to launch an attack against Taiwan from the south, without having to worry about U.S. military intervention from the same area.

Presidential Office Spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said Thursday it is the responsibility of both sides of the Taiwan Strait to maintain peace and stability and Beijing should uphold its responsibility in the global community to contribute to regional safety and prosperity.

Meanwhile, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian (吳謙) said the Shandong is operating smoothly and will continue its training in accordance with the plan to develop strike group combat capabilities.

Wu emphasized that the PLA has already established complete and modern weapons systems for the protection of China's sovereignty, security and development, in order to safeguard global prosperity and stability.

(By Matt Yu and Emerson Lim)

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