Taipei, May 27 (CNA) A Chinese naval fleet led by the Shandong aircraft carrier transited through the Taiwan Strait Saturday afternoon, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND).
In addition to the Shandong, the fleet comprised two ships and sailed in a northerly direction along a route just west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, MND spokesman Major General Sun Li-fang (å«ç«‹æ–¹) told a news conference in Taipei, without giving the time of the transit.
Taiwan’s military closely monitored the situation by deploying aircraft, ships, and coastal defense systems, Sun said.
In related news, 12 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), including eight that crossed the median line during the 24-hour period that began at 6 a.m. Friday.
The aircraft that crossed the median line including four Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jets and four J-10 fighter jets, the flight paths released by the MND showed.
A Y-8 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft, a J-16 fighter jet, a Z-9 ASW helicopter, and a WZ-7 reconnaissance drone also entered the ADIZ during that period, the flight paths indicated.
An ADIZ is an area declared by a country to allow it to identify, locate and control approaching foreign aircraft, but it is not part of territorial airspace as defined by international law.
In addition to the aircraft entering Taiwan’s ADIZ, 21 other PLA planes and 10 vessels were seen in airspace and waters around Taiwan during the 24-hour period, the MND said.
Taiwan’s military scrambled jets and deployed air defense missile systems in response to the aircraft and vessels operating around the country, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, military experts attending a defense forum held by Tamkang University’s (TKU) Center for Advanced Technology in Taipei Saturday afternoon described the transit as a “gray zone” tactic by China intended to intimidate Taiwanese.
Wong Ming-hsien (ç¿æ˜Žè³¢), chairman of TKU’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies said the presence of the Shandong in the Taiwan Strait is an anomaly because the strait is “too narrow” for China to deploy any of its aircraft carriers.
As such, the transit is likely a politically motivated show of force to intimidate, he said, adding that China does not recognize the existence of the median line in the Taiwan Strait.
The transit was also unannounced, which is characteristic of gray zone warfare, and could be meant as a response to the annual U.S.-Philippines joint military exercises known as Balikatan in late April in the South China Sea, he said.
Tsiam Siong-ui (è©¹ç¥¥å¨), a policy analyst at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said China has been using “gray zone” tactics to create the impression Taiwan is part of its territory in the international community while destabilizing life in Taiwan.