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Taiwan watching Chinese movements after Beijing denounces US Speaker meeting

2023-04-06T02:52:16Z

Taiwan was keeping a close watch on a Chinese aircraft carrier and threats to inspect ships in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday after Beijing condemned a meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy – the third highest ranking official in the U.S. leadership hierarchy – and other Republican and Democratic lawmakers met Tsai on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

The meeting took place at a low ebb of U.S.-China relations and despite threats of retaliation from Beijing, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own.

The Chinese carrier, the Shandong, was spotted on Wednesday and was currently 200 nautical miles off Taiwan’s east cost, Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters at parliament in Taipei.

“It is training but the timing is quite sensitive, and what it is up to we are still studying,” Chiu said, adding aircraft had yet to be seen taking off from its deck.

He later told lawmakers the ship was east of the very southern tip of Taiwan, and Taiwanese warships were monitoring it at a distance of five to six nautical miles.

China has sailed its aircraft carriers near to Taiwan before and at similarly sensitive times.

In March of last year, the Shandong sailed through the Taiwan Strait, just hours before the Chinese and U.S. presidents were due to talk.

China staged war games around Taiwan last August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

China’s Defence Ministry condemned the McCarthy meeting, but did not threaten specific action.

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army adheres to its duties and missions, maintains a high degree of alert at all times, resolutely defends national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely maintains peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” it said in a statement.

Ko Cheng-heng, deputy head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, told lawmakers on Thursday they did not expect such a strong reaction from China as followed Pelosi’s trip.

“What the Chinese communists care more about is whether McCarthy will visit Taiwan,” he said.

China is also trying to show a more diplomatic face to the world, Ko said, noting French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are currently in Beijing.

“So at the moment they are continuing to put on a more peaceful, great power image.”

However, Taiwan is also concerned about China’s announcement late Wednesday that its maritime safety administration is to inspect ships in the Taiwan Strait, including possibly boarding them.

Taiwan has told shipping operators that if they encounter such requests from China they should refuse them and immediately notify Taiwan’s coast guard to render assistance.

Defence Minister Chiu said Taiwan will react if Chinese patrol ships cross the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which normally serves as an unofficial barrier between the two sides.

Related Galleries:

Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng attends a parliament session in Taipei, Taiwan April 6, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng speaks during a parliament session in Taipei, Taiwan April 6, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng attends a parliament session in Taipei, Taiwan April 6, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and the U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy hold a news conference following a meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California, U.S. April 5, 2023. REUTERS/David Swanson
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