TAIWAN has released a chilling spy plane photo showing a Chinese aircraft carrier lurking near the island as fears loom of a full scale invasion.
The photo taken by the recon pod camera on an F-16 fighter jet shows the warship the Shandong with its distinctive take-off ramp just 120 miles southeast of the Taiwan.
The black-and-white photo shows the carrier with at least 10 warplanes on deck as she moved through the Western Pacific.
“We have closely monitored their movements and will respond accordingly,” said the the island’s Ministry of Defence.
It is understood the photo was taken with a “Phoenix Eye” spy camera attached to the American-made warplane.
Shandong is the second of China’s combat ready aircraft carriers – with Beijing hoping to have up to six by the 2030s.
The 70,000-ton war machine is 1,000ft long and can carry up to 44 planes and helicopters.
She is armed with missile launchers and forms the core of naval strike groups.
But despite being commissioned in 2019 – she is actually based on the same aging 40-year-old Soviet-era design used by Vladimir Putin’s smoke belching aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.
Taiwan and the US are closely monitoring Chinese activity around the breakaway island after a massive war games last month.
China is considers Taiwan part of its territory and has repeatedly vowed to reclaim the land – including by force.
And the row over the “reunification” is a major flashpoint between Beijing and Washington.
Shandong was last week spotted along with four warships sailing close to the US island territory of Guam.
US President Joe Biden has hinted the US would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by China.
War between the two superpowers over the island has long been predicted to be a devastating conflict with global consequences.
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said they are taking the military threat “very seriously”.
“I think 2027 is the year that we need to be serious about,” he told LBC.
Beijing carried out three days of drills around Taiwan.
It was seen as part of a seen of exercises which could be seen as a “dry run” for a possible invasion.
China’s President Xi Jinping has vowed to take the islands by force if necessary and his forces have been carrying out ever more regular invasion rehearsals.
But the sheer difficulty of crossing the 100-mile Taiwan Strait and achieving surprise has led many observers to say Beijing will try to subdue the island using a blockade instead.
And the consequences of such a move risks an escalation to full conflict – raising the terrifying spectre of nuclear war.
Defence expert Robert Clark told The Sun Online a sea and air blockade by the People’s Liberation Army is “now Beijing’s main recourse for punitive action” against Taiwan.
“A blockade of Taiwan by the Chinese military would undoubtedly be used as a less riskier option for China than a full-scale invasion,” he told The Sun Online.
“The success or failure of such a blockade would likely dictate any further Chinese military activity – full-scale invasion at a later stage.
“A full and lasting blockade would not only likely restrict US military activity it could also have the desired effect of Taipei’s political capitulation to Beijing due to the economic consequences.”
Each time China seeks to tighten a blockade around Taiwan, then the chances of war increase, said Clark, who’s director of the Defence and Security Unit at the Civitas think tank.
“Each time China engages in this aggressive and unreasonable. behaviour not only do the maritime global trade flows in the region risk becoming threatened, the risks of military miscalculations increases dramatically.
“At the end of that spectrum lies the potential for conflict between the US and its allies, and China.”
But “it would be immensely difficult for the US to intervene directly” without provoking war and it would “likely result to heavy sanctions on China to attempt to break a blockade”.
Even if the US does decide to run the gauntlet, organising a mission is likely to take weeks, say researchers at the Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute.
By which point Taipei may have thrown in the towel, authors Stephen Gailliot, Matthew McInnis, Dan Blumenthal and Frederick W. Kagan wrote.
“An isolation strategy would almost certainly begin with the successful isolation of the island by air and sea,” they argue.
“Any response to break blockades or quarantines would likely take days or weeks to negotiate and then bring into effect.
“The initial shock of isolation could engender strong psychological effects, especially if China manages to cut Taiwan’s internet connectivity and other means of communicating with the outside world.
“Beijing might calculate that its efforts and agents could bring Taiwan to surrender before the US is able to break through.
“This approach is attractive as it offers the possibility of achieving Beijing’s aims without having to engage in a complicated amphibious invasion.”
Source : The US Sun