The exercise by the Liaoning aircraft carrier strike group comes at a sensitive time, when tensions in the Taiwan Strait increase.
According to military observers, China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, conducted exercises east of Okinawa involving fighter and helicopter operations, conducted 100 takeoffs and landings in 6 days, demonstrating its comprehensive combat capability. Six Chinese naval ships: the Liaoning, a Type 055 destroyer, a Type 052D destroyer, two Type 054A frigates, and a Type 901 supply ship, sailed in waters about 300km east of Kitadaitojima in Okinawa on Sunday, Japan’s defence ministry said.
“The higher the frequency of sorties, the more effective the aircraft carrier can organize flights. More than 100 sorties in 6 days show that the Liaoning’s organizational capacity has been completed and has reached a high level of combat readiness,” said Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert.
Liaoning, the first aircraft carrier of the Chinese navy, was originally a Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier of the Soviet Union, purchased by China from Ukraine, and refurbished and upgraded. The ship can carry about 24 J-15 fighters. Information on the number of fighters and helicopters on board during the recent exercise was not disclosed.
During the same period of the Liaoning exercise, the US Navy deployed the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to the waters northeast of the Philippines. The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group also sailed from Yokosuka, Japan, to this area.
The exercise by the Liaoning aircraft carrier strike group comes at a sensitive time, when tensions in the Taiwan Strait increase. The location of the drills “in the waters and airspace near the southwestern Japanese island group as well as the island of Taiwan” has worried Tokyo and deployed forces to monitor it closely, according to Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
In the wake of China’s extensive military exercises in the region, Japan is keeping a close eye on the PLA navy’s activities in the waterways surrounding the country. The country stated that it would continue to monitor the situation and maintain surveillance at sea and in the air. China has been taking aggressive actions at sea in an apparent show of might, raising concerns among Japanese officials about unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force.
Taiwan is likewise on high alert due to the presence of the Chinese Navy close by. Taiwan’s local media revealed on 8 May that the ministry had placed Sky Bow III missiles with a maximum range of 200 kilometers to respond to threats to eastern Taiwan. In addition, F-16V, the most advanced fighter jet in Taiwan, will be stationed at Taitung’s Chihang Base, while several Hsiung Feng III and Harpoon missiles will be relocated to the east.
Taiwan considers itself a sovereign country, but China says the self-governing, democratic island is a Chinese province and promises to join it with the mainland by force if needed.