Chinese Aircraft Carrier Passes Through Taiwan Strait, Heightening Tensions

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In a significant move that has escalated tensions in the region, three Chinese ships, including the Shandong aircraft carrier, sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, according to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence. This event marks a rare passage of the Shandong through the Taiwan Strait, a 180-kilometer-wide waterway that separates the self-ruled democratic Taiwan from mainland China.

China's claim over Taiwan as its territory has been a longstanding issue, and Beijing has not shied away from expressing its intention to take control of the island, even through force if necessary. Since the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who staunchly rejects the idea of Taiwan being part of China, Beijing has significantly increased its military presence near the island.

While Taipei regularly monitors and announces the presence of Chinese warships near its waters, the passage of the Shandong aircraft carrier signifies a noteworthy development. The carrier, accompanied by a flotilla of three ships, sailed west of the median line and headed northward in the Taiwan Strait, as reported by the Ministry of National Defence.

This recent show of force by China comes just over a month after Beijing conducted aerial and naval exercises around Taiwan. The war games simulated targeted strikes and an encirclement of the island, including an "aerial blockade." The Shandong aircraft carrier, which was also involved in these exercises, deployed J15 fighter jets. However, during that time, the carrier was positioned southeast of Taiwan, not in the Taiwan Strait.

The increased military activities by China in the region have been largely in response to Tsai's meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this year, which Beijing warned would have consequences. Taiwan's armed forces have been closely monitoring the situation, deploying civil air patrol aircraft, navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities.

In the past few days, there has been a noticeable surge in the presence of Chinese warships and incursions by Chinese warplanes near Taiwan. According to the Ministry of National Defence, 33 warplanes and 10 vessels were detected within 24 hours leading up to Saturday. The previous day, 11 vessels were in close proximity to Taiwan's waters.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time the Shandong aircraft carrier has traversed the Taiwan Strait. Similar instances occurred in December 2020 and December 2019, both of which coincided with significant events, such as US warship passages and Taiwanese elections, respectively.

As tensions continue to rise in the region, this latest passage of the Chinese aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing territorial dispute between China and Taiwan. The international community will be closely watching the developments and their potential impact on regional stability.

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