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Taipei scrambles jets after Chinese carrier maneuver

November 17, 2019

A group of Chinese carriers sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as presidential election campaigning on the island heats up. Taiwan says its voters will not be intimidated.

Taiwanese air force fighter jets
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Ministry of National Defense

China sailed a carrier group through the politically delicate Taiwan Strait on Sunday, led by the communist country's first domestically built aircraft carrier.

In a statement released Sunday, Taiwan's defense minister announced the military presence in the 112-mile-wide (180-kilometer-wide) strait between the island and mainland China. The naval group progressed from north to south through the strait, trailed by US and Japanese ships, it said.

Taiwan scrambled its own ships and aircraft in order to monitor the Chinese movements.

Read more: Can Taiwan counter China's 'diplomatic aggression'?

Hours before, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen named former Premier William Lai as her running mate in the 2020 presidential elections. Last year, Lai angered China when he expressed his view that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country. A major Chinese newspaper then called for his arrest.

In a Sunday tweet, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan would not be intimidated.

Warning signal

Self-ruled Taiwan broke away from mainland China in 1949 after communists in Beijing emerged victorious from a civil war.

China considers the democratically ruled island to be part of its territory and has vowed to retake it — using military force if necessary.

The world power has increased pressure on Taiwan in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential elections in January. It has threatened force should the island seek independence.

Read more: Are Hong Kong protests a warning for Taiwan?

Chinese aircraft and ships have repeatedly circled the strait in recent years. In response, in April the US sent two destroyers through the waterway in a sign of commitment to maritime freedom in the region. 

Though President Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party is pro-independence, she has called for Taiwanese-Chinese relations to remain as they are, however not at the expense of security and democracy.

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Kristie Pladson
Kristie Pladson Business reporter, editor and moderator with a focus on technology and German economy.@bizzyjourno