Thu, Jan 12, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Carrier transit a warning from Beijing: lawmakers

Staff writer, with CNA

Lawmakers across party lines yesterday said the entry of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning into the nation’s air defense identification zone was a warning from Beijing to Taiwan.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), who co-chairs the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, said it was a warning sent by Beijing to intimidate Taiwan, and undermines peace and stability in the region.

However, it was more of a “diplomatic intimidation” than an actual military threat, he said, adding that the Ministry of National Defense has stayed on top of the situation.

The incident came amid a visit by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to four of the nation’s Central American allies in an effort to consolidate bilateral ties, after the west African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan on Dec. 20 and later established official ties with China.

There was no need to overinterpret China’s actions, committee member and DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said, adding that the aircraft carrier was not conducting drills as it sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

It was apparently a warning sent by China to Taiwan, amid heightened cross-strait tensions, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said.

Defense analyst Erich Shih (施孝瑋) said that China, to some extent, is “making a political statement” that it has the ability to put pressure on Taiwan whenever it wants to.

However, he did not see it as a “provocative” move by China.

Sailing through the Taiwan Strait saves a lot of time compared with sailing via the Pacific Ocean, Shih said, adding that it makes it easier for the Chinese air force and navy to protect the fleet.

Asked how the military should respond, Shih highlighted the need for calm, calling on the military to beef up its combat readiness as China continues to modernize its armed forces.

The Liaoning entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone from the southwest at 7am yesterday and sailed north, remaining west of the Taiwan Strait’s median line, the ministry said, adding that it is closely monitoring the movements of the Chinese warships.

The Soviet-built aircraft carrier and its escorts sailed south off of the east coast on Christmas Day before entering the South China Sea.

In November 2013, the aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait for the first time after being commissioned in September 2012.

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