Beijing says the aircraft carrier’s trip was routine and unrelated to Biden-Xi phone call
FILE PHOTO © Mark Schiefelbein / AP / Pool
Just hours before the scheduled phone call between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, China sailed its aircraft carrier Shandong through the Taiwan Strait. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing, however, says the two are unrelated and Western media are being too “sensitive” about it.
The Shandong was accompanied by another Chinese surface ship and transited the strait about 12 hours ahead of the Biden-Xi call, Reuters reported on Friday citing an anonymous source. It was reportedly followed at a distance by the USS Ralph Johnson, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer of the US Navy.
The photo of the carrier, captured by a passenger on a commercial flight passing overhead, has made the rounds on social media. It shows the Shandong with no airplanes on her deck.
Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong in Taiwan Strait today. Photo by Meteo Ra from flight B7 8915, Kaohsiung to Kinmen. pic.twitter.com/Q6zr9JYeSS
— Alert 5 (@alert5) March 18, 2022
Asked about the timing of the transit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told Reuters on Friday that he was “not aware of the specific situation.”
“I’m sure the aircraft carrier has routine training arrangements,” Zhao added. “One shouldn’t link this with the communication between the Chinese and US heads of state. Perhaps you are being sensitive, not the Taiwan Strait.”