Chinese aircraft carrier conducts combat drills near Taiwan as tensions rise


A group of Chinese aircraft carriers, accompanied by the country’s last major destroyer, is conducting combat drills “in the seas near Taiwan” as part of a blue-water training exercise, the Chinese navy said on Monday.

Liaoning, the first combat-ready aircraft carrier of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, was escorted by five warships as it left the East China Sea and transited the Miyako Strait into the Western Pacific on Saturday, according to a statement made by the Ministry of Defense of Japan the next day.

The “routine” drill of the offshore carrier group was organized according to the army’s annual work plan, said PLA Navy spokesman Gao Xiucheng. The purpose was to evaluate the group’s training, as well as “increase its capacity to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” the official added.

Similar naval exercises in blue waters would now be held on a “regular” basis, according to the Chinese navy’s plans, Gao said.

Both Taipei and Tokyo said they were monitoring the situation following a statement from the PLA Navy late Monday, when the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense also reported incursions into its air defense identification zone by 10 Chinese fighter jets. , including fighter jets and anti-submarine jets.

Communist Party newspaper Global times He said Liaoning The task force’s combat exercise came immediately after the US Navy destroyer. Mustinshipping operation in the East China Sea on Saturday.

It also followed the return of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group to the South China Sea through the Straits of Malacca on Sunday, a deployment that was announced by the United States Pacific Fleet on Monday.

The state tabloid described the US Navy’s operations as “one-off provocations near China,” but said LiaoningThe combat exercise was “a coincidence that will take place more and more often in the future as China’s aircraft carrier program advances.”

An F / A-18E Super Hornet is launched from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt while on a scheduled deployment to the South China Sea.
Mass Communication 3rd Class Dartañon D. De La Garza / US Navy

The PLA Navy exercise in the Pacific is notable for the first reported inclusion of the Type 055 destroyer Nanchangthe newspaper said, adding that the warship, commissioned last January, would become the main escort for Chinese carrier groups in the future.

A second large Type 055 destroyer, Lhasa, was commissioned last month, and six more await formal service, reports say.

The nationalist Global times, which has some of the harshest views in Beijing, said the Liaoning The task force’s exercise was not directed at any specific country, but noted that it was “directed … against the secessionists in Taiwan.”

The phrase is a reference to members of the ruling Taiwan Progressive Democratic Party, which advocates self-determination and distrusts its economy’s over-reliance on the Chinese market.

Su Tzu-yun, a Taipei-based senior defense analyst, said Newsweek In a recent interview, PLA operations near Taiwan served primarily political rather than military purposes. Nearly daily fighter jets, he said, often skyrocket in response to any improvement in US-Taiwan relations.

He told the Taiwan Central News Agency on Monday that the Liaoning The carrier group was unlikely to be deployed to the South China Sea, where the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is conducting its own strike exercises.

Chinese warships would likely remain in the Philippine Sea, said Su, who works at the National Defense and Security Research Institute.

The PLA’s message, Su says, is: “Come to my house; I will come to your house.”

Liaoning It is one of the two operational aircraft carriers of China, the other is its indigenous sister ship Shandong, which entered service in December 2019.

Shandong, whose home port of Sanya is in southern China’s Hainan island province, has yet to be deployed in 2021.

Chinese aircraft carrier in drills near Taiwan
The Liaoning People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier (C) conducts drills at sea. Liaoning is one of China’s two operational aircraft carriers, along with domestically produced sister ship Shandong.
AFP via Getty Images

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