Nearly two weeks away from Taiwan’s presidential election, the Shandong - China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier - and a number of accompanying frigates sailed northwards through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
“Military threats like this only toughen Taiwan’s determination to defend itself and preserve regional peace and stability,” Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, said in a Thursday tweet concerning the issue.
There it goes again! #China's 002 aircraft carrier steamed through the #TaiwanStrait & the Ministry of National Defense monitored it every step of the way. Military threats like this only toughen #Taiwan's determination to defend itself & preserve regional peace & stability. JW— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) December 26, 2019
The move, which was announced by the Chinese government weeks in advance, elicited not only a negative reaction from Taiwanese government officials, but also triggered the US State Department to issue a statement on Friday calling for China to “abstain from coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people [in] Taiwan,” reported the South China Morning Post.
“The United States has a deep and abiding interest in cross-strait peace and stability. Taiwan is a reliable partner, a democratic role model, and a force for good in the world,” Washington’s release read. “We encourage authorities in Beijing and Taipei to engage in constructive dialogue that seeks a peaceful resolution of differences acceptable to the people of both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”
China has maintained that it considers Taiwan its territory and reserves the right to reunite it with the mainland.
The exchange comes just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping chided the US’ recent remarks on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet and asserted their words "constitute an interference in China's internal affairs, undermine China's interests and are not in line with bilateral mutual trust and cooperation.”
Prior to that, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang issued a statement to both US and Japanese naval forces regarding a similar journey taken by the Shandong through the Taiwan Strait.
"I want to note that a detachment of Chinese warships conducted regular exercises at the country’s doorstep, and that there is no need to make such noise about it,” he said in November.
“We demand that the relevant sides completely stop any interference in the usual military activities of China.”