Taipei--Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense on Sunday declined to comment on media reports that China's Liaoning aircraft carrier will pass either along Taiwan's east or its west coast on the way to Hong Kong this week.
On Sunday, the People's Liberation Army Daily reported that the Liaoning, the first aircraft carrier commissioned into the China's Navy, had set sail from its base in Qingdao, Sandong Province, earlier in the day on a training mission.
The carrier is being escorted by three frigates and is carrying several J-15 jet fighters and helicopters on board, the report said, but did not give any details of the training mission.
Last week, the Hong Kong-based Sing Tao Daily reported that the Liaoning would visit Hong Kong in July and will be open to public visits as part of the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China.
In Beijing, the Global Times cited Chinese military experts as saying that there was a high possibility a battle group, led by the aircraft carrier, would visit Hong Kong.
Since then, Taiwanese media have been speculating on the route of the battle group, saying it was likely to either sail though the Taiwan Strait past Taiwan's west coast, or across the northern end of the island, down its east coast and past its southern tip, en route to Hong Kong.
In response to reporters' questions, National Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chen Chung-chi (???) said his ministry had no comment on the media reports.
The ministry will continue to pay close attention to the movements of the Chinese military and make the necessary preparations, based on existing regulations, Chen said.
Meanwhile, as of Sunday morning, China's Ministry of National Defense had not confirmed that the Liaoning would visit Hong Kong.
Last December the Liaoning-led battle group carried out an exercise that took them through the Miyako Strait northeast of Taiwan and southward on the high seas off the island's east coast into the South China Sea.
On its returning voyage, the battle group sailed through the Taiwan Strait, completing a circle around Taiwan, according to the defense ministry in Taipei, which said it had been closely monitoring the battle group's movements throughout the exercise.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has never relinquished the idea of using military force to annex Taiwan.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel