A Chinese aircraft carrier group was passing through the strategically sensitive Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, according to the authorities in Taipei. The Liaoning, along with its five escorts, entered the highly sensitive waters from the South China Sea, heading towards its home port of Qingdao in eastern China, the Taiwanese defence ministry confirmed in a statement on its website. “Please be reassured that the military is able to exercise joint intelligence to get hold of the [strike group’s] entire movements and deal with any emergency to ensure national security and regional stability,” the ministry said. The Taiwan Strait, which separates the self-ruled island of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, is an important international waterway for trade. But since 1949, when the defeated Nationalists fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war, it has been a potential flashpoint. The government in Beijing still regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never renounced the use of force to reunite it with the mainland. In recent few years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy and Air Force have regularly conducted patrols around the island. However, the United States and its allies have also been increasingly active in the region, with the US Navy making monthly passages since relations with Beijing deteriorated late last year. Is Taiwan ally Solomon Islands considering a switch to China? Last month the US House of Representatives also passed an act expressing support for Taiwan that said Washington should allow “regular transfers of defence articles” to Taiwan. Last week, two Canadian warships also conducted what they classified as a “freedom of navigation” operation through the waters. The Liaoning strike group’s latest voyage began earlier this month, when the ships sailed through Japan’s Miyako Strait, then passed the US territory of Guam and the Philippines before entering the disputed South China Sea. On Monday it passed by the Taiwanese-controlled Patras Islands before entering the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning. The carrier was making its first ocean voyage since leaving the dock after maintenance in February, and its accompanied by two guided missile destroyers, the Shijiazhuang and Xining; two frigates, the Daqing and Rizhao; as well as a supply ship, the Hulun Lake. The Liaoning was an unfinished Soviet-era Kuznetsov-class carrier that China bought from Ukraine in 1998 and retrofitted before it entered service in 2012. How the storm over Hong Kong’s extradition bill battered Beijing’s ‘one country, two systems’ ambitions for Taiwan China is conducting sea trials on its first home-grown carrier, also based on a Soviet model, and at least one other is under construction. The Liaoning, accompanied by a fleet of eight vessels, first sailed through the strait in November 2013 and has made several passages since then. Chinese state media said earlier this month that the appearance of the Liaoning in the East China Sea had nothing to do with the country’s territorial disputes. Instead, the reports said, its operations were dedicated to maritime traffic protection, naval diplomacy, regional deterrence, and humanitarian aid and rescue missions.