China says carrier group exercising near Taiwan, drills will become regular

Reuters

Posted at Apr 06 2021 10:27 AM

China's aircraft carrier Liaoning departs Hong Kong, China, July 11, 2017. Bobby Yip, Reuters File Photo

SHANGHAI - A Chinese carrier group is exercising near Taiwan and such drills will become regular, China's navy said late on Monday in a further escalation of tensions near the island that Beijing claims as its sovereign territory.

Taiwan has complained of an increase in Chinese military activity near it in recent months, as China steps up efforts to assert its sovereignty over the democratically run island.

China's navy said the carrier group, lead by the Liaoning, the country's first aircraft carrier put into active service, was carrying out "routine" drills in the waters near Taiwan.

The aim is to "enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty, safety and development interests", it added.

"Similar exercises will be conducted on a regular basis in the future," the navy said, without elaborating.

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Taiwan's Defense Ministry said it had a "full grasp" of the situation in the air and at sea surrounding Taiwan and that it was "appropriately handling" the matter.

Japan's Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the Liaoning, accompanied by five escort ships, had transited the Miyako Strait on their way to the Pacific.

China's statement follows Taiwan's Defense Ministry reporting a new incursion by China's air force into the island's air defense identification zone on Monday.

The Liaoning and its sister ship the Shandong have carried out drills or sailed near Taiwan before.

In December 2019, shortly before presidential and parliamentary elections in Taiwan, China's newest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, a move condemned by Taiwan as attempted intimidation.

Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial issue and a potential military flashpoint. China has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is overseeing a revamp of the island's military, rolling out new equipment such as "carrier killer" stealth corvettes. (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Michael Perry)