China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday following a heated nationalist speech from President Xi Jinping in which he warned force will be used to thwart Taiwanese independence if necessary.
According to Taiwanese defense officials, the Chinese carrier conducted drills in the East China Sea on Sunday and Monday. It entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone for the first time on Tuesday and passed through the strait on Wednesday, closely monitored by Taiwanese forces at all times. Taiwan’s military reassured citizens that no alarming behavior was noted by the Chinese carrier and there was no reason to be concerned about its presence.
Furious with U.S. President Donald Trump’s signature of the Taiwan Travel Act, which symbolically grants diplomatic recognition to Taiwanese officials in a reversal of U.S. policy since the 1970s, Xi gave a speech on Tuesday in which he said China wishes to continue pursuing “peaceful unification” with Taiwan but stressed military force will be used if a bid for independence is made.
“Maintaining national sovereignty, territorial integrity and complete unification of the motherland is the common aspiration of all Chinese,” Xi declared. “In the face of national righteousness and the tide of history, all attempts or tricks aimed at dividing the motherland are doomed to failure. All will receive the condemnation of the people and the punishment of history.”
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council responded by wishing that “China’s leaders, at this time of entering into a new administration period, can break free of clichéd thinking of strong intimidation.”
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong arrived in Taiwan this week to “reaffirm long-standing U.S. policy toward and support for Taiwan,” as a State Department spokeswoman put it. She added that his visit was long in the works and was not linked to passage of the Taiwan Travel Act.
“Taiwan can no longer be excluded unjustly from international fora. Taiwan has much to share with the world. I can assure you, the United States government and the United States private sector will do their part to ensure Taiwan’s stellar international example shines brightly,” Wong said at a reception in Taipei on Wednesday which was attended by President Tsai Ing-wen.