China sails carrier through Taiwan Strait ahead of presidential election

China sails carrier through Taiwan Strait ahead of presidential election
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China sailed a new aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Strait ahead of the upcoming presidential election in Taiwan, Reuters reported Thursday

The Chinese carrier Shandog sailed north through the Strait, Reuters reported, citing Taiwan’s defense ministry. 

“It’s the responsibility and duty for the two sides across the strait to maintain peace and stability and strive for the well-being of the people,” Taiwan’s presidential office reportedly said in a statement.

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“Beijing should cherish peace and stability across the strait and in the region, which are not easy to come by,” it continued. 

The ministry said the carrier group was accompanied by frigates, and did not say exactly when the ships made their voyage, according to Reuters. 

Tensions have been heightened between Taipei and Beijing ahead of the Taiwanese presidential vote that will be held on Jan. 11. 

President Tsai Ing-wen is looking to win reelection. The president has said she sees the threat from China as a warning to voters, according to Reuters. 

Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party is pro-independence, but Reuters notes the president has said she wants to maintain the status quo with China while defending Taiwan’s security and democracy. 

A senior Taiwanese official familiar with security planning told Reuters the Chinese carrier was Beijing’s attempt to “intimidate non-aligned voters” by “flexing military muscle.” 

“Beijing understands that this could be a double-edged sword, but what worries China more is the possibility of a fiasco for pro-China forces in the election,” the official said. 

The Chinese ministry’s spokesman Wu Qian said all was going “smoothly” with the new carrier but did not comment on its deployments or mention it sailing through the Taiwan Strait, according to Reuters. 

“It will continue to conduct trials and training, and form a combat capability through training. We will make an overall consideration about its deployment according to the situation and task needs,” Wu said.