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September 23, 2017

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Liaoning passes through tense Taiwan Strait

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The military reportedly scrambled jets and navy ships to monitor the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning as it passed through the Taiwan Strait, Wednesday.

The Liaoning, leading a Chinese fleet, entered Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) from the southwest at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday and continued to sail north along the Taiwan Strait, apparently on their way back to China from the South China Sea after training exercises, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a statement.

In response, the MND scrambled F-16 and IDF fighter jets, P-3C surveillance aircraft, and Navy frigates to monitor the Chinese fleet, according to sources cited by the Central News Agency (CNA). The MND neither confirmed nor denied the responsive action, according to the CNA.

The fleet passed through seas off Shantou city on the eastern coast of Guangdong province in Chinese Mainland, around noon, according to the MND, while Taiwan's armed forces were closely monitoring their movements

A national security source said military estimated that it may take 10 hours before the aircraft carrier and the warships escorting it exit the Taiwan Strait as the fleet returns to Qingdao.

The passage will mark the completion of a two-stage circumnavigation of Taiwan island by the Chinese fleet.

The Liaoning previously sailed south in the Pacific off Taiwan's eastern coast on Dec. 26 before entering the South China Sea for a training mission earlier this month.

The upcoming passage will mark the third time the aircraft carrier has transited the Taiwan Strait since its commission in September 2012. The previous two times occurred in November and December 2013.

President Calls on Nation to Stay Calm

The latest incident occurred at a sensitive time, with the move seen by local experts and lawmakers as a means of sending a warning to Taiwan with President Tsai Ing-wen currently in Central America.

In response, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang, who accompanied Tsai during her visit to Taiwan's four diplomatic allies, told reporters the president was keeping close tabs on the movements of Liaoning.

Tsai had telephoned Chen Chun-lin (陳俊麟), deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council and Defense Minister Feng shih-kuan (馮世寬) on Wednesday morning to learn the latest updates of the Chinese fleet and Taiwan military's responsive measures, Huang said.

Tsai called ordered her national security team to closely monitor the movements of the Chinese warships and asked the public to put their minds at rest, Huang said.

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