South China Sea
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy take part in a military display in the South China Sea April 12, 2018Reuters

Tensions between China and Taiwan escalated on Monday, November 18, after Beijing said that an aircraft carrier sailed through the contentious Taiwan Strait for "routine" training and tests. The move comes on the same day China's Defense Minister warned the US against "provoking and escalate tensions" in the South China Sea.

China's Navy spokesman Cheng Dewei said the carrier, which is Beijing's second such carrier, crossed the sensitive territory for "scientific research tests and routine training." The military stated that it was a "normal practice" in testing cross-regional trials. "It is not aimed at any specific target and has nothing to do with the current situation," Cheng was quoted as saying by AFP.

However, Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu on Sunday said the move indicated China's intention of intervening in the upcoming Taiwan elections adding citizens would not be intimidated.

The country's defence ministry said that it had dispatched ships and planes to monitor the Chinese carrier's movement which is trailed by US and Japanese ships in the strait.

Tensions between China and Taiwan have deteriorated over the years since anti-Beijing President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016. China considers democratic Taiwan as part of its 'sacred' territory under the "One China" policy. 

Taiwan's fight for freedom, democracy

The upcoming elections according to Tsai, who has voiced support for the Hong Kong protests, has been referred to as Taiwan's fight for freedom and democracy.

On Sunday, Tsai announced the former premier and self-styled "Taiwan independence worker", William Lai, would be also be running for the elections.

Chinese H-6K bomber.
A Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.Liu Rui/AP

China's state media, Global Times citing a military official said the ship is likely to sail through the strait and dock at its home base in the disputed Hainan island located east of Vietnam. The province called Spratly Island by Vietnam in the South China Sea is claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and the Philippines.

Relations between Vietnam and China have deteriorated due to a dispute over the "nine-dash line," a large expanse of land of the East Sea that includes Vietnam's energy-rich waters, particularly oil, in its continental shelf. The region also offers strategic leverage to the world sea trade route.

In July, Beijing said that it is "ready to go to war" if people "try to split Taiwan from the country". China has denounced the $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan in August and warned of 'countermeasures' accusing the US of harming bilateral relations, peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The US, who has repeatedly labelled China's activities in the South China Sea as a threat to regional security, on Sunday said Beijing was "increasingly resorting to coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives" in the region.

The United States had earlier stated that China's interests in oil and gas activities through deployed vessels in the disputed waters in Vietnam was an "an escalation by Beijing in its efforts to intimidate other claimants out of developing resources in the South China Sea." The State Department stated that China's actions not only undermine regional peace and security but also blocks economic access to Southeast Asian states of an estimated $2.5 trillion in unexploited hydrocarbon resources.

During a telephone conversation with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier this month, China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe had called for military relations between the two countries to be based on mutually beneficial cooperation. "The two sides should ... continue to advance military-to-military relations to make them a pillar of stability in bilateral relations," he said.

Weeks after the phone call, Wei on Monday, November 18 called for US to "stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and to not provoke and escalate tensions" in the region.