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China’s Liaoning Aircraft Carrier Sails Through Taiwan Strait’s Contested Waters

© AP Photo / Li Gang/XinhuaIn this April 12, 2018 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Liaoning aircraft carrier is accompanied by navy frigates and submarines conducting an exercises in the South China Sea
In this April 12, 2018 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Liaoning aircraft carrier is accompanied by navy frigates and submarines conducting an exercises in the South China Sea - Sputnik International
On Tuesday, a Chinese aircraft carrier group passed through the Taiwan Strait, which divides the island nation from mainland China.

In a statement on its website, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry confirmed that the Liaoning, in addition to its five escorts, passed through the waters while heading toward the port of Qingdao in eastern China, the South China Morning Post reported. 

Woody Island, a island in the South China Sea occupied by China and claimed by several other countries, is shown in satellite images taken on February 14, 2016 and February 3, 2016, in this handout image provided by ImageSat International N.V. 2016, on February 18, 2016 - Sputnik International
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“Please be reassured that the military is able to exercise joint intelligence to get hold of the [strike group’s] entire movements and deal with any emergency to ensure national security and regional stability,” the ministry wrote on its website.

Earlier this month, the ships traveled through Japan’s Miyako Strait, before entering the US island territory of Guam and the Philippines before passing through the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing considers self-governing Taipei - lying just 100 miles or so off the Chinese mainland - to be part of its territory and claims sovereignty over the island. Taiwan, however, still bears the name of the pre-Communist-era government, the Republic of China, whose territorial control was confined to the island at the conclusion of the civil war in 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was established on the mainland. Taiwan has repeatedly rejected Beijing’s claim.

In recent months, the US Navy has increased its activities in the Taiwan Strait, sailing through the strategic waterway to demonstrate US commitment to freedom of navigation operations in the region, especially as Beijing-Washington relations faltered last year amid the ongoing trade war. 

USS Nimitz, USS Chosin, USS Sampson, and USS Pinkney in South China Sea (File) - Sputnik International
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However, the US is not alone in its travels through the hotly contested waters. Recently, the HMCS Regina, one of 12 frigates operated by the Canadian navy, and the Naval Replenishment Unit Asterix, also sailed through the contested waterway after departing from Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. 

In May 2019, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed the “Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019,” which urges Taiwan to increase its defense spending. Additionally, the act states that the US should allow “regular sales and defense articles” to Taiwan and should defend the island’s participation in international organizations, Reuters reported.

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