As reported yesterday, tensions between China and Taiwan rose again when Beijing sailed its only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which over the weekend was "shown off" conducting dramatic military drills, around the southern tip of Taiwan passing southeast of the Pratas Islands, which are controlled by Taiwan, heading southwest.
The carrier group earlier passed 90 nautical miles south of Taiwan's southernmost point via the Bashi Channel, between Taiwan and the Philippines. The Liaoning and five escorts sailed 20 nautical miles outside Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines on Sunday, the defense ministry said.
It is now deep inside the South China Sea, in international water, within an area contested by many countries, and which has become the source of much diplomatic rancor between the US and China.
As a result, Taiwan which less than a month ago unleashed a can of politically scandalous worms when its president called Trump to congratulate him, in the process putting America's the "One China" policy up for debate, warned on Tuesday that "the threat of our enemies is growing day by day", as the Chinese carrier group sailed towards the island province of Hainan through the South China Sea on a routine drill.
China has given few details of what the Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier is up to, save that it is on a routine exercise according to Reuters. Taiwan has said the aircraft carrier skirted waters outside of its eastern air defense identification zone. The carrier is expected to arrive at a Chinese military base on the southern Chinese island of Hainan late on Tuesday, Taiwan's defense ministry said.
"The threat of our enemies is growing day by day. We should always be maintaining our combat alertness," Taiwan Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said. "We need to strengthen the training (of our soldiers) so that they can not only survive in battle but also destroy the enemy and accomplish the mission."Feng's remarks were given in a speech Tuesday at a ministry event marking the promotion of senior military officers.
Prior to the Lioning's drill, China's air force conducted long-range drills this month above the East and South China Seas that rattled Japan and Taiwan. China said those exercises were also routine.
The Pentagon did not directly comment on the latest drill but said that the United States recognizes lawful use of sea and airspace in accordance to international law. "We continue to closely monitor developments in the region. We do not have specific comments on China's recent naval activities, but we continue to observe a range of ongoing Chinese military activity in the region," Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross told Reuters.
Last December, the defense ministry confirmed China was building a second aircraft carrier but its launch date is unclear. The aircraft carrier program is a state secret. Beijing could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years, the Pentagon said in a report last year.
Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary, with the semi-official local press, mostly the tabloid Global Times, urging the nation to prepare for war.Meanwhile, in a new editorial on the Global Times, the newspaper warns that Taiwan "risks full diplomatic isolation under DPP rule", stating that "China and Sao Tome and Principe resumed diplomatic ties on Monday, less than a week since this African island nation broke relations with Taiwan. Gambia, another African country, resumed ties with China three years after cutting off relations with Taiwan. This is a warning Beijing has sent to the administration of Tsai Ing-wen. Within Taiwan, there is also speculation that Beijing and the Vatican are in close touch regarding establishing diplomatic ties."
And so the full court press to, first, isolate Taiwan and then pressure it to gravitate toward Beijing, continues.