A gargantuan fleet led by the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning is reportedly headed to the Western Pacific and is currently not far behind the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which is deployed to the Philippine Sea.
The Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces issued a statement immediately after spotting the fleet between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako on Monday afternoon before entering the western Pacific, the South China Morning Post reported.
The statement says that Liaoning is accompanied by seven destroyers and supply ships. This includes the Type 055, the most powerful warship in the Chinese navy. A number of carrier-based J-15 fighter jets, as well as Z-8 and Z-9 helicopters, could be seen standing on the carrier’s flight deck.
Chinese navy spokesman Gao Xiucheng said the warships were on a routine training mission. “It is in line with relevant international laws and practices, and without targeting any one party,” Gao said Tuesday. Despite the PLA Navy’s claims that it sent the Liaoning carrier group to conduct realistic combat training, the fleet’s presence left the Japanese and Taiwanese militaries on edge.
While Japan dispatched an Izumo light aircraft carrier, a P-1 maritime patrol aircraft, and a P-3C anti-submarine aircraft to monitor Chinese ships’ activities, Taiwan announced that it would closely monitor Chinese military maneuvers in waters and airspace. .
This is the Liaoning carrier strike group’s first Pacific training session this year. Last year, another five warships passed through the strategically important strait for combat exercises in the Yellow and East China seas and the western Pacific Ocean.
Interestingly, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a gigantic drill a few weeks ago in response to what they called “recent and frequent false signals issued by the US on the Taiwan issue.” China has always used such exercises to show off its military might when disputes arise over the Taiwan issue. Beijing has also made its displeasure known by protesting against the visit of US lawmakers to Taiwan.
Recently, ships from the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted a joint drill in the Sea of Japan. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had closely watched the drill with its 794th Dongdiao-class surveillance vessel following the strike group in the Sea of Japan on Monday.