Taipei (Taiwan News) -- The first Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, passed through the Bashi Channel accompanied by five warships Sunday evening and sailed into the contested South China Sea Monday, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.
The ministry added later that the aircraft carrier sailed past the Dongsha Islands Monday afternoon. The archipelago is also known as the Pratas Islands, a Taiwan-controlled area in the northern part of the South China Sea.
The Liaoning, commissioned by the Chinese navy in 2012, first sailed to the South China Sea in 2013 and was recently on a routine exercise in the Western Pacific, which China called ‘part of its annual training.’
More Chinese vessels spotted in East and South China Sea at a sensitive time
At the same time, three Chinese coast guard ships were spotted near the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, in the East China Sea, the Japanese Coast Guard said. China later confirmed the news that the coast guard ships, coded 2401, 2502, 35115, were executing a mission on Monday.
It was the third time of the month that the Chinese coast guard ships sailed into the waters. Japan alleged that China violated international maritime law, claiming the ships trespassed into its territorial waters surrounding the islands. The Diaoyu Islands are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.
Just a few days ago, the Liaoning was seen sailing in the East China Sea for the first time by Japan, passing by the Miyako Strait, a waterway between Miyako Island and Okinawa Island, going beyond the 'first island chain,' and headed to the Western Pacific. The move has raised alarm in neighboring countries including Taiwan and Japan.
China's Defense Ministry said Saturday that the Liaoning had set off for a routine exercise in the Western Pacific as part of its annual training.
Japan's Ministry of Defense was cited by Japanese media as saying that they believe the move serves as a counter to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's recent outspoken comments on Taiwan which displeased China.