- The aircraft carrier Shandong was shadowed by a US destroyer, source tells Reuters.
- The sailing came about 12 hours before US President Joe Biden was due to hold a telephone call with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
China on Friday sailed its aircraft carrier Shandong through the Taiwan Strait. The ‘Shandong’ was shadowed as it sailed near Kinmen by a US destroyer conducting what the US called a ‘routine Taiwan Strait transit’ of its vessel, reported Taipei Times.
The transit, which occurred just hours before the Chinese and US presidents were scheduled to meet, also saw the Shandong shadowed by a US destroyer, according to the source.
Beijing claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has increased military activity near the island in the last two years to assert sovereignty claims, alarming both Taipei and Washington.
According to the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, the Shandong sailed close to the Taiwan-controlled island of Quemoy, also known as Kinmen, which sits directly opposite the mainland city of Xiamen, and was shadowed by a US warship.
“Around 10.30am the CV-17 appeared around 30 nautical miles to the southwest of Kinmen, and was photographed by a passenger on a civilian flight,” the source said, referring to the Shandong’s official service number.
The USS Ralph Johnson, an Arleigh-Burke guided missile destroyer, shadowed the Chinese carrier, which did not have aircraft on its deck and sailed north through the strait, the source added.
Taiwan also sent warships to keep an eye on the situation, the source said.
Taiwan’s defense ministry declined to comment, and neither Beijing nor the US Navy responded immediately to requests for comment. The departure occurred about 12 hours before US President Joe Biden was scheduled to speak by phone with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. The timing of the Shandong’s movement so close to that call was described as “provocative” by the source.
Taiwan, according to Beijing, is the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with the US. Although Washington does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the country’s most important international backer and arms supplier.
The Shandong is China’s newest aircraft carrier, having been launched in 2019. The Liaoning, China’s only other carrier, is mostly used for training.