China's Liaoning aircraft carrier and six accompanying navy warships conducted military training Wednesday with fighter jets and helicopters in the East China Sea, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
The drills in waters that are closely monitored by Japan were likely to check military activities in the same area by U.S. Japan and others, especially as the allies become increasingly vocal over the fate of self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as a renegade province.
The ministry said earlier in the day that the flotilla of Chinese Navy ships had passed through the Miyako Strait - a key gateway into the Western Pacific Ocean near Okinawa Prefecture.
The flotilla consisted of four guided-missile destroyers, including the Chinese Navy's state-of-the-art Type 055 vessel, a Type 901 fast combat support ship and a guided-missile frigate.
According to the ministry, surveillance aircraft and the Izumo — which is the largest vessel of the MSDF, along with its sister ship, the Kaga, were monitoring the Liaoning-led flotilla.
The Liaoning had not been seen in the area since December, when the carrier led another flotilla on a round-trip trip through the Miyako Strait for similar training involving ship-based helicopters, fighter jets and other warships.
In April of last year, another Liaoning-led flotilla passed through the Miyako Strait and conducted military exercises near democratic Taiwan, which Beijing has promised to make routine. It was not clear if the latest exercises would see the vessels sail near Taiwan.
China sees Taiwan as an inherent part of its territory and a renegade province that must be brought back by force if necessary. Its military has conducted scores of sorties into Taiwan's air defense identification zone, which is different from sovereign airspace. The specter of military miscalculation was raised by the confusion over what the moves are intended to signal, which has caused a lot of concern in both Washington and Tokyo.
With the Sino-U. The moves have been particularly concerning and have triggered fears of a new Cold War that would envelop the region, because of the S. relationship at its lowest point in decades.
One of China s two active carriers is the Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet vessel. The country s first domestically produced carrier is Shandong.
An analysis last November said that China was three to six months from launching its third and most modern aircraft carrier, in what would be a key milestone in President Xi Jinping's effort to project even more power in the high seas. The timing of the launch could depend on the COVID 19 pandemic and political considerations - China's ruling Communist Party is due to hold a key conclave this autumn, where Xi is expected to secure a third term in office.