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Iran Press TV

China aircraft carrier group sails through Taiwan Strait for South China Sea drills

Iran Press TV

Monday, 21 December 2020 7:21 AM

A Chinese aircraft carrier group has sailed through the Taiwan Strait on its way to routine military drills in the South China Sea, a day after a US warship transited the waterway as part of provocative movements meant to boost its military presence near Chinese territorial waters.

China's navy announced Monday that the carrier group -- which was led by its newest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, and accompanied by four other ships -- had "smoothly" transited the strategic and narrow Taiwan Strait on Sunday, heading to the naval maneuvers in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its sovereign territory, but which is also disputed by some US-allied countries in the region.

The navy further noted that the drills were part of the normal arrangements that were made under annual plans, adding, "In the future, we will continue to organize similar operations based on training needs."

The development comes against the background of heightened tensions between Beijing on the one side, and Washington and Taipei on the other. Just a day earlier, China said its naval forces had tailed and monitored American guided missile destroyer USS Mustin sailing through the Taiwan Strait, censuring the move for "seriously jeopardizing peace and stability in the Strait."

As the Chinese carrier group sailed through the sensitive waterway, Taiwan mobilized its military forces to monitor the passage so close to the island territory. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry said the Shandong, escorted by four warships, had set out from China's northern port of Dalian on Thursday. The ministry further noted that it had dispatched six warships and eight military aircraft to "stand guard" and monitor the movements of the Chinese carrier group.

The Shandong is China's second aircraft carrier that was formally commissioned nearly a year ago. The Chinese navy said it had successfully completed tasks such as carrier-based aircraft take-off and landing and the use of its weapons.

"The combat capability of the formation system has been continuously improved in experimental training," it added, referring to the group of warships that escort the Shandong.

The US naval forces released a new maritime strategy last week insisting that the US must counter China's "skyrocketing military growth and aggressive behavior" in the Pacific or risk giving up its place as the world's strongest naval force.

The new 36-page strategy -- dubbed 'Advantage at Sea' – states that American sea services are in day-to-day competition with China and Russia, underlining that how the US responds over the next decade will "shape the maritime balance of power for the rest of this century."

Under the internationally-recognized "One China" policy, nearly all countries across the globe — including the US — recognize Chinese sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.

The US, however, continues to sell weapons to the island, bypassing Beijing, and avidly backs its secessionist president Tsai Ing-wen. Washington has been pressing Taiwan to build up its military so it can face what it refers to as threats from China.

But Beijing describes the expanding US ties with Taiwan and its weapons sales to the island territory as a violation of China's sovereignty.

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