The Shandong aircraft carrier moved about 50 km from the island of Kinmen controlled by Taiwan, right before the phone call of the leaders of China – US.
“The Shandong aircraft carrier, codename CV-17, appeared southwest of Kinmen Island at 10:30 am today. A passenger on a civilian plane took a picture of this warship,” an unnamed source in Taiwan’s self-defense force told TaiwanNew .
The US destroyer USS Ralph Johnson followed the Shandong on part of its journey. The Chinese warship sailed south – across the Taiwan Strait and with no aircraft on deck.
The Taiwan Self-Defense Force deployed warships to monitor the situation. The island’s defense agency confirmed the operation of the Shandong ship but did not give details, emphasizing that Taipei was “well aware” of the activities of warships and aircraft deployed by Beijing in the Taiwan Strait.
US Navy spokesman Mark Langford said the destroyer USS Ralph Johnson “conducted a normal cruise through international waters in the Taiwan Strait on March 17”, but did not disclose further information.
The trip took place 12 hours before Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with US President Joe Biden. Reuters’ anonymous source said the move was “provocative” and unusual, as the Chinese warship passed through the Taiwan Strait during the day, instead of at night like previous operations.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the Shandong aircraft carrier was on a “routinely scheduled training mission”. “This should not be related to the phone conversation between the heads of China and the United States. You might think it’s too sensitive. What’s sensitive is you, not the Taiwan Strait,” he added.
China’s Ministry of National Defense was not immediately available for comment.