Taiwan scrambles jets as China sends aircraft carrier to 'intimidate' Taipei

Meanwhile, China said the sortie of the domestically built carrier didn't have any specific mission or target.

Taipei scrambles jets as Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning enters Taiwan Strait
J-15 fighters from China's Liaoning aircraft carrier conduct a drill in an area of South China Sea, January 2, 2017. Picture taken January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mo Xiaoliang

Taiwan scrambled ships and aircraft to monitor the Chinese aircraft carrier group that sailed into the Taiwan Strait ahead of crucial elections. Taiwan said the Chinese mission was to intimidate the people and intervene in the upcoming elation in which President Tsai ing-wen is seeking re-election.

Taiwanese Foreign Affairs ministry also said US and Japanese ships trailed the Chinese aircraft carrier. The Chinese fleet, led by the unnamed indigenously made aircraft carrier, arrived in the Straits immediately after President Tsai named former prime minister William Lai as her running mate.

Taipei asked people not to panic, adding that the government will "ensure national security and safeguarding of regional peace and stability." Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu said China's plan is to meddle in the elections. "Voters won't be intimidated! They'll say NO to China at the ballot box," he tweeted, according to Taipei Times.

Meanwhile, China said the sortie didn't have any specific mission or target. "It is not aimed at any specific target and has nothing to do with the current situation," navy spokesman Cheng Dewei said. He added that it was a normal practice for the domestically built carriers to conduct cross-regional tests.

China raised its stake in the ongoing conflict last month saying the island's reunification with the mainland is a primary need. China's defence minister Wei Fenghe said the "Taiwan question" is Beijing's "greatest national interest."

China considers self-ruling Taiwan as a renegade province and hasn't abandoned the possibility of using force to annex the island. The power balance tilted in Beijing's favour back in the early 1970s when the United States recognized the People's Republic of China and started diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Taiwan President Tsai apologises to indigenous people, promises to look after their interest
President Tsai Ing-wen Reuters

"Resolving the Taiwan question so as to realise China's full reunification is the irresistible trend of the times, China's greatest national interest, the righteous path to follow and the longing of all Chinese people," Wei said.

Taiwan presidential elections will take place in January. Anti-China leader Tsai Ing-wen is seen as a favourite to win the election. China has been hostile towards Tsai Ing-wen, who is a pro-independence leader.