China’s carrier fleet leaves Taiwan Strait

By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China’s Liaoning (遼寧號) aircraft carrier battle group has passed through the Taiwan Strait and is heading for the South China Sea, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday. Military spokesman Luo Shuo-he (羅紹和) said the military stayed fully abreast of the situation during the entire period that the Chinese fleet was passing through the strait. The MND dispatched military vessels and aircraft to closely monitor the Chinese battle group’s passage through the strait, he added. According to the MND, the Chinese fleet entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and left around 4 a.m. yesterday. The carrier then headed towards the South China Sea, Luo added. The Chinese fleet maintained its course on the Chinese side of a cross-strait median line during the entire period, he stressed. The median line is a theoretical line that divides the Taiwan Strait into territory controlled by Taipei and Beijing. The MND will continue to closely monitor the Chinese fleet’s operations in the South China Sea and take appropriate responsive measure should the need arise, he noted. China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported earlier in the day that the Liaoning battle group had passed through the Taiwan Strait and entered the South China Sea. The battle group includes two destroyers and two frigates in addition to China’s only aircraft carrier, which departed Qingdao (青島) early Wednesday for a training mission, Xinhua’s report said.

Sensitive Timing China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier was commissioned by the PLA Navy on Sept. 25, 2012 after undergoing successful sea trials. Foreign experts have predicted that it will be fully operational by 2017. The aircraft carrier’s participation in training exercises in the disputed South China Sea, in areas that are also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines, came at a sensitive moment. Last Saturday Beijing established an East China Sea ADIZ that includes the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), claimed by both Taiwan and Japan. The Chinese government’s unilateral announcement has drawn strong protest from Japan, Korea and the U.S.

Taiwan’s government also said on Saturday that it is concerned about the potential ramifications of China’s latest policy.