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China ship enters strait, Taiwan warns against ‘panic’

TAIPEI: China’s only aircraft carrier has entered the Taiwan Strait in a highly symbolic show of strength, but Taiwan insisted on Wednesday there was 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 US.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province to be brought back into its fold. The US is the island’s most powerful ally and main arms supplier, despite having no official diplomatic relations since recognising Beijing in 1979.

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

Beijing responded that it was “very normal” for the Liaoning to pass through an international waterway as part of drills. “Every year, in this season, China’s navy has a few exercises in the near seas and other maritime regions. These exercises are all for training,” said Liu Zhenmin, vice minister of foreign affairs.

Taiwanese media said that F-16 fighter jets and other aircraft were dispatched on Tuesday night to monitor the Chinese carrier group. The defence ministry would not confirm those reports.

“The military is monitoring the whole situation and will act as necessary. We urge Taiwan’s people to be at ease,” the defence ministry said in a statement. “There is no need for us to overly panic,” said the chairwoman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which handles the island’s relationship with Beijing.

“The national security council has a good grasp of the situation. We are doing what is necessary,” Chang Hsiao-yueh told reporters at an end-of-year briefing. “The government has sufficient capabilities to defend our country’s safety,” she added.

Experts have said the manoeuvres 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 south-west of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) at 07:00 Wednesday local time (23:00 GMT), the defence ministry said, along with escort vessels.

Tsai visited the US during the weekend on a transit to Central America, despite protests from Beijing.

She stopped in Houston on Saturday and met with Republican Senator Ted Cruz during her stay, which was slammed by Beijing as an attempt to “undermine China-US relations”.

courtesy : dawn news



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