Asia Pacific

China sends its first domestically built aircraft carrier through Taiwan Strait

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

China sent its second aircraft carrier, the first to be built domestically, through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the Defense Ministry in Taipei said, with the carrier group shadowed by U.S. and Japanese naval vessels.

The carrier, known as the Type 002 and accompanied by a battle group, sailed through the waterway from the East China Sea into the strait, the ministry said.

It said the Taiwanese military scrambled fighter jets in response and monitored the situation. No further details were immediately available.

The move came as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen named former Prime Minister William Lai as her running mate in January’s elections. Lai last year angered Beijing by voicing support for the island nation’s formal independence.

“Just as @iingwen names her running mate & the campaign shifts into high gear, #PLA sends its new 002 aircraft carrier battle group into the #TaiwanStrait,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu wrote on Twitter. “#PRC intends to intervene in #Taiwan’s elections. Voters won’t be intimidated! They’ll say NO to #China at the ballot box.”

PRC is the acronym for China’s formal name, the People’s Republic of China.

Taiwan, a democratically governed island, split from Communist Party-ruled mainland China after the civil war ended in 1949. Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province that must be brought back into the fold — by force if necessary.

Beijing has called Taiwan “the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations” and has bolstered its military presence near the island, holding large-scale “encirclement” exercises and bomber training throughout last year and into this year.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy sent a warship through the waterway for the first time since September, with the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville conducting “a routine Taiwan Strait transit,” the navy said in a statement.

Chinese state-run media reported last week that the new aircraft carrier left its shipyard in the city of Dalian for its ninth sea trial, where it might receive fighter jets before its official commissioning. The commissioning is expected soon, the reports said.