Taiwan's jets shadow China aircraft carrier

Top News | 12 Jan 2017

China's only aircraft carrier has entered the Taiwan Strait in a highly symbolic show of strength, but Taiwan insists there is no need for panic even as tensions boil over the island's diplomatic status.

Beijing has upped its military drills near the island in recent weeks after being incensed by a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's President Tsai Ing- wen to US president-elect Donald Trump, and by a subsequent transit stop by Tsai in the United States.

The Liaoning has not entered Taiwanese waters but has gone into an area covered by the island's air defense zone, Taiwan's defense ministry said.

Beijing responded that it was "very normal" for the Liaoning to pass through an international waterway as part of drills.

Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships to "surveil and control" the passage of the carrier group, defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said. The defense ministry said: "The military is monitoring the whole situation and will act as necessary. We urge Taiwan's people to be at ease."

Chang Hsiao-yueh, chairwoman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, which handles the island's relationship with Beijing, said: "There is no need for us to overly panic.

"The national security council has a good grasp of the situation. We are doing what is necessary.

"The government has sufficient capabilities to defend our country's safety."

Experts have said the maneuvers of the second-hand, Soviet-built Liaoning are "symbolic" rather than any real military threat. The Liaoning has been carrying out its first exercise in the Pacific and already passed south of Taiwan last month.

It entered the southwest of Taiwan's air defense identification zone yesterday morning, along with escort vessels.

By midday it was moving north along the mainland's coast. The carrier was expected to move out of the strait later yesterday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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