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China Sends Aircraft Carrier Into Taiwan Strait, A Provocative Move

The Liaoning, China's only aircraft carrier, sails during military drills in the Pacific on Dec. 24. Taiwan's defense minister warned on Dec. 27 that enemy threats were growing daily after China's aircraft carrier and a flotilla of other warships passed south of the island in an exercise. On Wednesday, the carrier traveled through the Taiwan Strait.

China sent its only aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday morning, an unusual and provocative move that comes as tensions are high between the mainland and the self-governing island.

NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Beijing that China says the carrier was returning from weapons drills in the South China Sea, and that its passage through the strait complies with international law. Here's more from Rob:

"Taiwan's Defense Ministry said in a statement that China's aircraft carrier, named the Liaoning, was seen sailing north through the center of the strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China. China considers Taiwan, ruled independently since 1949, to be a Chinese province.

"China's move comes weeks after President-elect Trump broke with diplomatic protocol by speaking on the phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, and it comes just days after President Tsai made a controversial stopover in the United States, meeting with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, ignoring protests from China's government."

In a statement on Wednesday, the Chinese government said it is "committed to promoting peace and stability" in Asia, The Associated Press reports. The statement made no reference to Beijing's "increasingly robust assertions of its maritime claims, particularly in the South China Sea," the wire service notes.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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