Upping its ante against the US-led QUAD, China has deployed warships in the Pacific. As a response to the American provocation, the PLA Navy has deployed a carrier task group led by the aircraft carrier Liaoning, accompanied by the latest Type 055 destroyer for the first time this year in the region.
The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) reported the movement of Liaoning, escorted by 5 other warships, sailing through international waters between Okinawa and Miyako Island, and moving south towards the Pacific Ocean on the weekend.
The carrier group consists of the lead ship Liaoning, with a Type 055 class stealth guided-missile destroyer Nanchang, two Type 052D destroyers Chengdu and Taiyuan, the Type 054A frigate Huanggang and the Type 901 comprehensive supply ship Hulunhu.
In a press release, the Japanese Defense Ministry said a Y-9 patrol aircraft had flown across the Miyako Strait and returned on Sunday (April 4). To counter this combined Chinese movement, the Japanese government sent a destroyer JS Suzutski and a P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), along with a P-3C anti-submarine warfare aircraft “to monitor and gather information on the Chinese vessels”.
— Indo-Pacific News – Watching the CCP-China Threat (@IndoPac_Info) April 4, 2021
The Liaoning sailed through this waterway in April last year as well. The recent passage follows a joint QUAD+ exercise “La Perouse” in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean, led by the French Navy and involving the Indian, American, Australian, and Japanese navies.
Last week, the US Navy also conducted a two-day joint drill with their Australian counterparts in the Eastern Pacific, and on Sunday the American supercarrier USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea after conducting joint drills with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.
Analysts told the Chinese state media Global Times that the Type 55 destroyers accompanying aircraft carriers would be the standard carrier formation for the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Type 055 destroyers, also called the Renhai-class, have a multi-mission design; the combination of sensors and weapons suggests the main role of area air defense, with anti-submarine warfare capabilities which surpass previous Chinese surface combatant ships.
Last month, the Renhai-class destroyer Nanchang sailed through the Tsushima Strait along with a Type 052D class guided-missile destroyer Chengdu and the Type 054A guided-missile frigate Daqing towards the Sea of Japan.
The Chinese aircraft incursions were also reported by Taiwan on Monday, over the Bashi Channel, which connects the Pacific Ocean to the South China Sea. The aircraft included four J-16 flankers and four J-10 dragons along with an early-warning plane and a submarine warfare aircraft.