Thu Jan 12, 2017 6:7AM
This photo, taken on December 24, 2016, shows the Liaoning, China’s only aircraft carrier, sailing during military drills in the Pacific. (By AFP)
This photo, taken on December 24, 2016, shows the Liaoning, China’s only aircraft carrier, sailing during military drills in the Pacific. (By AFP)

A Chinese naval fleet, including China’s sole aircraft carrier, has sailed out of the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese military has announced, a day after Taipei scrambled warplanes and navy ships to monitor the passage of the fleet.

The Liaoning aircraft carrier, “visiting the South China Sea to conduct cross-maritime region drills and tests, has passed through the Taiwan Strait and continues with its further duties,” a Chinese navy spokesperson, Liang Yang, said in a statement on Thursday.

He added that the carrier had “meticulously operated” during the navigation of the strait. This is while Taiwan had announced that the Chinese fleet sailed into the self-ruled island’s air defense identification zone even though it did not trespass on its territorial waters.

Beijing had earlier said that the fleet had to enjoy the right to freedom of navigation in compliance with international law.

This aerial photo, taken on January 2, 2017, shows a Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea. (By AFP)

Tensions have recently seen an increase across the Taiwan Strait, which separates China from Taiwan. The two split politically following the 1927-1950 Chinese Civil War and there have been no formal cross-strait diplomatic relations ever since; China, however, claims sovereignty over the island and expects other countries to recognize that sovereignty.

US President-elect Donald Trump recently questioned exactly that claim when he said he did not feel bound by the so-called “One China” policy. Chinese officials reacted heatedly to Trump’s remarks and warned Taiwan against potentially feeling encouraged in its independence bid by the US president-elect’s behavior. Trump had earlier also took a phone call from Taiwan’s leader in a breach of diplomatic protocol.

While being a major trade partner and arms supplier to Taiwan, Washington has been acknowledging Chinese sovereignty over the island since 1979.