China’s Shandong aircraft carrier, which was commissioned into the Chinese Navy earlier in December, has for the first time passed through the Taiwan Strait, just two weeks ahead of the presidential election on the island, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry reported. The ministry stated that the carrier and its accompanying strike group's movements are being closely monitored as they head north through the strait.
The passage was announced by China in advance as a part of the new ship's training. Taiwanese authorities reacted negatively to the news, with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu accusing Beijing of trying to intervene in the island's election, which is to take place on 11 January.
This is not the first time that Beijing sends a carrier through the strait dividing the mainland China and Taiwan, which it considers a part of its territory. China's first carrier, the Liaoning, has passed through it on multiple occasions, with the latest taking place in June 2019.
Apart from China, the US also regularly sends its ships to the strait, despite Beijing's protests against what it sees as violations of its maritime borders by Washington. The US doesn't recognise Beijing's claims to Taiwan and regards the strait as neutral international waters, justifying the ships' passages by calling them "freedom of navigation" operations.