Chinese Aircraft Carrier Sails Taiwan Strait Days Before Biden’s Call

( On Friday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported that a Chinese aircraft carrier sailed through the Taiwan Strait just hours before President Biden and President Xi were scheduled to speak.

According to Reuters, a source familiar with the incident said the carrier Shandong sailed about 30 nautical miles southwest of the Taiwan-controlled island of Kinmen Friday morning. The carrier was photographed by a passenger aboard a civilian flight.

A Navy Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer the USS Ralph Johnson shadowed the carrier for part of its route. Taiwan also sent warships to monitor the carrier’s movements.

According to the source who spoke with Reuters, the Shandong did not have aircraft on its deck as it sailed north through the strait.

In a brief statement, the Defense Ministry confirmed the Shandong’s passage but provided no details except to say its forces have a “full grasp” of China’s movements in the Taiwan Strait.

Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said the Shandong was on a “routine training schedule.” Zhao referred further questions to the Defense Ministry which refused to comment.

The Shandong incident occurred about twelve hours before President Biden was scheduled to speak with China’s President Xi Jinping. Reuters’ source said given the timing it was likely the Shandong’s trip through the strait was intended to be provocative.

However, Zhao was quick to downplay the timing of the incident just hours before the Biden/Xi call, telling reporters that it should not be associated with any communications between “the heads of state” from China and the US.

Given the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan has already been in a heightened state of alert over concerns that Beijing may exploit the situation in Europe to make a move on the island nation. However, there have been no signs that China is preparing to launch any military strike.

A senior lawmaker from Taiwan’s ruling party said with tensions already running high over the war in Ukraine, the Shandong’s transit through the strait sends a “very provocative message,” especially given the timing of the call between Biden and Xi.

Lo Chih-cheng also told Reuters that Beijing’s actions may not cause a sharp rise in tensions, but it will cause countries in the region to elevate their military alert level.