Taipei, March 4 (CNA) Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said Saturday that a fleet of Chinese military vessels passed through the Taiwan Strait earlier in the day, heading southward along China's east coast, after conducting a military exercise near the Japanese island of Miyakojima.
A destroyer, a supply ship and an escort vessel from China's South China Sea fleet passed through the Miyako Strait, which lies between Miyakojima and Okinawa Island, and into the Taiwan Strait, according to the ministry.
The fleet was traveling west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait and was expected to leave Taiwan's air defense identification zone by Saturday night, the ministry said, adding that it was closely following the ships' movement.
The three vessels were returning from an annual naval and air exercise that was conducted Thursday in an area southeast of Miyakojima, which is approximately 300 kilometers east of Taiwan, the ministry said.
The exercise included drills by a range of fighter aircraft, early warning and air surveillance planes, and Xian H-6 bombers, according to the defense ministry.
It said there was no imminent threat to Taiwan, but the country's authorities would continue to keep a close eye on China's military actions and were prepared to respond, if necessary.
Last December, China's first aircraft carrier the Liaoning and a fleet of escort vessels sailed past Taiwan's east coast and into the South China Sea to conduct training exercises there.
On the return leg in January, the aircraft carrier fleet entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone from the southwest and remained west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, sailing north to its base in northeastern China.
In response to reporters' questions on the issue, Taiwanese military expert Erich Shih (施孝瑋) said it was difficult to determine whether the aim was to intimidate Taiwan.
China more likely was trying to gain maritime navigation experience with its military vessels, he said, adding the targets of the exercises could also have been Japan or American military bases in the region.
(By Lu Hsin-hui and Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/pc