China has sent its first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier, known as 002, across the Taiwan Strait, the island's Ministry of National Defence confirmed.
The carrier was closely followed over the weekend by the US and Japanese military ships, and came just after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced her running mate for the upcoming elections in January 2020, which she will contest as a representative of the ruling and independence Democratic Progressive Party, Efe news reported.
The Ministry confirmed that 002 sailed from north to south with its frigates and the Taiwanese armed forces also deployed their joint monitoring mechanism, which includes surveillance aircraft and other surface vessels to track Chinese ships and try to deter them.
"The southbound Chinese vessels stayed on China's side of the Taiwan's Strait's imaginary median line and was closely followed by US Navy's USG Wayne E. Mayer (DDG 108) and JS Shimakaze (DDG-172) of Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force," it said on Sunday.
The Chinese vessels entered the Taiwan Strait from the north on Saturday night to conduct a series of maritime tests and was scheduled to move to the South China Sea, where Beijing is locked in territorial dispute with several Southeast Asian countries.
According to local media, 002 is expected to again pass through the strait to return to its port of departure in Dalian, northeast China, and analysts say it would do so around January 11, 2020, when elections are due to be held in Taiwan.
China currently has three aircraft carriers: the Liaoning, a former Soviet ship renovated in 2012 for the Chinese Navy; the 002, which is still in the maritime testing phase, and the 003, which is still under construction.