The island’s Ministry of National Defence said on Saturday that the Shandong aircraft carrier and two other Chinese ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait. “A (People’s Liberation Army Navy) flotilla of three ships, headed by the Shangdong aircraft carrier, crossed the Taiwan Strait around noon today… to the west of the median line, going northward,” the ministry said in a statement about the unofficial border in the middle of the strait. The claims are the latest increase in the military tensions over the island that Beijing considers its own territory. The ministry said that the Shandong, which was launched in 2019, went around midday in a northerly direction through the strait along its median line, which marks the informal boundary between the two sides.

The group was closely watched by Taiwan’s military, which used its own aircraft and ships and “reacted accordingly”, the ministry said in a brief statement. Taiwan’s armed forces “have tracked the situation and deployed (civil air patrol) aircraft, navy vessels, and land-based missile systems to respond to these activities,” the ministry said. The defence ministry of China did not comment on the claims and the country’s military did not post about any sailing on their official social media channels. The Shandong took part in the Chinese military exercises around Taiwan last month, operating in the western Pacific. In March 2022, the Shandong crossed Taiwan Strait, just before the US and Chinese presidents were set to talk. China’s military activities have persisted on a smaller scale around Taiwan after its war games officially ended last month.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Saturday that eight Chinese fighter jets had crossed the strait’s median line in 24 hours, something that the Chinese warplanes have been doing frequently since their previous war games last August. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its rule. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s government strongly denies Beijing’s sovereignty claims and says that only the island’s people can decide their future. The officials had last reported in March 2022 that the Shandong had passed through the Taiwan Strait. This happened right before China’s Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden spoke over a phone call. In December 2020, the carrier sailed by, a day after a US warship had gone through. In December 2019, Shandong also made a sail-by, weeks before Taiwanese voters headed to the polls.

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