While the eyes of the world are focused on security developments on the Korean peninsula, two recent events should re-sharpen attention on the Taiwan Straits.
The Chinese launched a new aircraft carrier, and President Donald Trump indicated that he would check with Xi Jinping before he would take another phone call from the President of Taiwan.
The new ship, whose name is as yet unknown, marks China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier. It joins the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier. Remarkably, the Liaoning itself only joined China’s fleet in 2014; before that, China had no experience even operating an aircraft carrier.
In short, China has joined the ranks of carrier navies in less than five years. This reflects the broader overall growth of the PLA Navy, as China has added a range of new surface combatants (including air defense destroyers), many new submarines, and an array of logistics and support ships that will allow the PLA Navy to operate for sustained periods far from its shores. Most recently, the PLA announced a five-fold expansion of the PLA Navy’s Naval Infantry force—their counterpart to the U.S. Marines.
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