The United States deployed an aircraft carrier east of Taiwan ahead of a pivotal election that China framed as a decision between war and peace, according to Taiwanese media reports.
The voyage of the USS Carl Vinson in Pacific waters close to Taiwan was designed to serve as a deterrent to China, which had warned voters to “make the right choice” or risk triggering a cross-strait conflict, said Taiwanese defence experts.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier’s deployment was meant as a “strategic precaution”, Shen Ming-shih and Su Tzu-yun from Taiwan’s Institute for National Defence and Security Research, told the country’s Central News Agency (CNA).
The USS Carl Vinson was reported by the Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative to be east of Taiwan after departing the Philippines, where it had been carrying out drills with the Philippine navy.
Dr Shen said the US would be able to use the carrier group to closely monitor the movements of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to respond to any possible action in a timely manner.
The USS Ronald Reagan, another Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarrier has also been stationed at Japan’s Yokosuka naval base since November.
Dr Lin Ying-yu, from Tamkang university, told CNA that the aircraft carrier’s deployment was focussed not only on monitoring PLA movements near Taiwan but also to keep watch on North Korea.
North Korea fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile towards its eastern waters on Sunday – its first test-fire of the year.
Taiwan’s voters on Saturday delivered a clear rejection of Beiijng’s territorial claims over their homeland by selecting Lai Ching-te, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as their new president.
The victory for the liberal DPP, which champions Taiwan’s de facto sovereignty and separate identity, signalled an entrenched China-scepticism among the population of 23.5 million people, the vast majority of whom dismiss Beijing’s unification demands.
Despite its fiery rhetoric ahead of the Taiwanese presidential and parliamentary elections, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) response to the election of a politician it considers a dangerous separatist has been relatively muted so far.
Chen Binhua, from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, claimed the results, where Mr Lai won 40.1 per cent of the vote, could not represent mainstream public opinion and said Beijing’s “national reunification” goals remained “firm as a rock”.
On Sunday, the Chinese embassy in Tokyo hit out at the Japanese government after Yoko Kamikawa, the foreign minister, congratulated Mr Lai, calling Taiwan “an extremely crucial partner and an important friend”.
The message had been a “serious interference in China’s internal affairs,” the embassy said.
Several other democracies, including the US and the UK, congratulated the new Taiwanese president.
“The elections today are a testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” said David Cameron, the Foreign Secretary.
“I hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will renew efforts to resolve differences peacefully through constructive dialogue, without the threat or use of force or coercion,” he said in a statement.
Analysts closely following Taiwan-China relations do not foresee an immediate dramatic military response from Beijing over the poll, but have predicted the CCP will step up economic sanctions and its cognitive warfare against the island, as well as continuing to fly fighter jets close to Taiwanese airspace.
“The likelihood of an invasion in the next several years is low,” said Arthur Ding, from Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.
“We know Xi is facing troubles domestically in China. The US also already sent a strong signal to Beijing not to provoke any kind of military operations in the Taiwan Strait,” he said, adding that there had been no signs of large-scale logistical operations on the Chinese side.
Some experts believe that Beijing may step up pressure on Taiwan around the time of Mr Lai’s inauguration in mid-May.
The post US aircraft carrier deployed close to Taiwan in warning to China before key election appeared first on The Telegraph.