Taiwanese authorities Thursday “deployed appropriate forces” to respond to a transit by the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, the Ministry of National Defense (MOND) in Taipei said.
“PLAN Shandong Carrier Strike Group (CSG) has sailed north along the median line of the Taiwan Strait since yesterday afternoon,” said the MOND in a statement, referring to the Chinese Navy by its official name – the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
“Shandong CSG entered the waters north of Taiwan at around 0800 (UTC+8) today and is continuing to sail north. We have deployed appropriate forces to respond,” it said without giving further details.
A carrier strike group normally consists of an aircraft carrier and several accompanying vessels, the number varies depending on the missions.
One week ago, the U.S. 7th Fleet’s USS Rafael Peralta and the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Ottawa made a similar Taiwan transit, which the U.S. Navy said was “unremarkable, unprovocative, and consistent with international law.”
The Shandong CSG has just conducted drills in the western Pacific and entered the South China Sea on Nov. 6.
With the latest transit, the PLAN “wants to show that China can encircle Taiwan when it wishes,” said Lin Ying-Yu, a Taiwanese defense analyst.
“The main message is: there is always at least one Chinese aircraft carrier somewhere near Taiwan, and that is the new normal,” he said.
“Given the current route, perhaps the Shandong is on its way to Dalian in Liaoning province for maintenance,” said Lin, Assistant Professor at Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, Tamkang University.
While the Taiwan military has a contingency plan in place to respond to such activities by the PLAN, the analyst says at the moment, its forces are “just observing, monitoring the Chinese carrier’s movements.”
Intensive combat exercise
The last time the Shandong transited the Taiwan Strait was in May.
In September, right after another Taiwan transit by U.S. and Canadian warships, the Shandong also sailed past Taiwan but not through the strait.
Shandong is China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, based on the Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier and commissioned in December 2019.
Prior to the Taiwan transit, the Shandong conducted an intensive combat exercise in the western Pacific, according to a statement by Japan’s Ministry of Defense.
During the nine-day exercise (Oct. 28 – Nov.5), it carried out around 420 jet fighter landings and 150 helicopter landings in the waters south of Japan’s Miyako islands and east of the Philippines, the ministry said.
That means about 63 aircraft sorties a day on average, nearly twice as many as when the Shandong CSG conducted its previous exercise in the region in April.
Besides the aircraft carrier, two PLAN destroyers Guilin (164) and Changsha (173), and two frigates Xuchang (536) and Huangshan (570), also took part in the exercise.
Between Nov. 4 and Nov. 7, the U.S Navy’s Carl Vinson and Ronald Reagan carrier strike groups held joint drills with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s helicopter destroyer Hyuga, also in the Philippine Sea.
Source : RFA