China Sends First Aircraft Carrier into the Western Pacific

Amid rising tensions with Taiwan, China appears to be mobilizing further. Recently, Beijing deployed its first aircraft carrier into the Western Pacific, according to the United States NAVY.

“A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, headed towards the West Pacific on Saturday for scheduled blue-water training,” said navy spokesperson Liang Yang as quoted by Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Details on the route or duration of the drill were not given.

However, Chinese state media reported that a J-15 fighter jet took off from the Liaoning carrier to conduct combat exercises and well as air refueling maneuvers. Japan’s defense ministry said it saw the Liaoning cross into the central part of the East China Sea along with a fleet of eight Chinese war ships that included destroyers and frigates. Although the Japanese government admitted the fleet did not navigate into territorial waters, Japan is one of the handful of countries in the region that has disputes with Beijing over parts of the South China Sea — where China is increasingly expanding its military footprint.

Taiwan’s defense ministry says it is closely monitoring the drills. China currently has thousands of missiles pointed at the self-ruled island, which it considers a breakaway province of China. Relations between the two parties have historically been bitter, but have recently intensified after United States President-elect Donald Trump broke away from decades of government policy and accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.

The United States does not officially share diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and it supports Beijing’s “One China Policy.” To China’s dismay, however, Trump has said the U.S. can always change course on that decision.

Following Trump’s comments, Chinese state media reported the government as warning its people to be ready to take back Taiwan by force if necessary.

To further boil relations, a senior Taiwanese official recently said his president is planning to make a trip to meet with members of the U.S. Congress.

The Liaoning earlier this month conducted fire drills for the first time in the Bohai Sea, near the Korean peninsula.