Taiwan warned on Tuesday that “the threat of our enemies is growing day by day”, as Chinese warships led by the country’s sole aircraft carrier sailed towards the island province of Hainan through the South China Sea on a routine drill.
China has given few details of what the Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier is up to, save that it is on a routine exercise. Taiwan has said the aircraft carrier skirted waters outside of its eastern air defense identification zone.
The carrier is expected to arrive at a Chinese military base on the southern Chinese island of Hainan late on Tuesday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said.
The drill comes amid renewed tension over Taiwan, which China claims as its own and says is ineligible for state-to-state relations, following U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s telephone call with the island’s president that upset Beijing.
“The threat of our enemies is growing day by day. We should always be maintaining our combat alertness,” Taiwan Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said. “We need to strengthen the training (of our soldiers) so that they can not only survive in battle but also destroy the enemy and accomplish the mission.”
Feng’s remarks were given in a speech Tuesday at a ministry event marking the promotion of senior military officers.
China’s air force conducted long-range drills this month above the East and South China Seas that rattled Japan and Taiwan. China said those exercises were also routine.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
The Pentagon did not directly comment on the latest drill but said that the United States recognizes lawful use of sea and airspace in accordance to international law.