China says committed to peace as aircraft carrier passes near Taiwan

China said Wednesday it was committed to promoting peace and stability in Asia, even as it sent an aircraft carrier battle group through the Taiwan Strait amid heightened tensions between Beijing and the self-ruled island. The statement in the preface to a Cabinet report on China’s policies on Asia-Pacific security cooperation follows heated criticism from the U.S., Japan and others over Beijing’s increasingly robust assertions of its maritime claims, particularly in the South China Sea. China said its Liaoning aircraft carrier was on an exercise to test weapons and equipment in the disputed South China Sea and its movements complied with international law. But Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships to “surveil and control” the passage and Taiwan’s top policymaker for China affairs urged Beijing to resume dialogue, after official communication channels were suspended by Beijing from June.

I want to emphasize our government has sufficient capability to protect our national security. It’s not necessary to overly panic…On the other hand, any threats would not benefit cross-Strait ties.

Chang Hsiao-yueh, minister for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council

Still, China’s rapid military modernization has raised concerns about its intentions, particularly regarding Taiwan, which it claims as its territory. Beijing and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and China has never renounced its threat to use force if it considers that necessary to prevent the island’s permanent independence from the mainland. Relations have deteriorated since Taiwanese elected independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen last year, and Chinese officials have warned of more turbulence ahead unless she endorses Beijing’s view that Taiwan is part of China. Beijing has been steadily ratcheting up pressure, discouraging Chinese tourists from visiting the island of 23 million and intervening to prevent its participation in international forums.

Looking ahead in 2017, the development of cross-strait relations faces increased levels of uncertainty and the challenge of risk has risen.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office