China sends its latest aircraft carrier to Taiwan Strait amid US Secretary visit

Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China

A Chinese aircraft carrier, Shandong, has sailed through the politically sensitive Taiwan Strait, increasing military tension over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.  

Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had dispatched “appropriate forces” to monitor the Chinese activities​​ in the strait which separates the self-ruled island of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. 

This move by China coincided with a visit from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Beijing to ease tensions between the two superpowers. 

The day before the incident, Blinken declared he had “raised US concerns – shared by a growing number of countries – about the PRC’s provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait, as well as in the South and East China Seas” in meetings with China’s officials. 

Over the years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy and Air Force have regularly entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and have conducted air drills on at least three separate occasions (in 2013, 2016, and 2017).

Moreover, their newest warship Shandong was deployed to simulate strikes around the island in April 2023 following the Taiwanese President’s visit to the US and later sailed through the Taiwan Strait in May.

Launched in 2017, the Shandong is China’s first domestically constructed aircraft carrier, primarily based on the design of its predecessor, the Soviet-built aircraft carrier Liaoning. 

Similar to Liaoning, Shandong uses the simpler “Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery” (STOBAR) launch and recovery system. The warship also retains the ski-jump takeoff, limiting its air wing to helicopters and Shenyang J-15 fighter jets of the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force. 

Despite the Shandong being a more advanced aircraft carrier, there were no reports of it conducting flight operations during its transits, which would have signified a more aggressive attempt to test Taiwan’s air defenses. 

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