Reuters reported on Monday, May 2, that 8 Chinese naval vessels passed through the Miyako Strait, located northeast of Taiwan and southwest of mainland Japan. The ships identified include the Chinese Liaoning aircraft carrier, Type 055 vessel – a four guided-missile destroyers – as well as a Type 901 fast combat support ship, among others.
According to Japan’s defense ministry, these Chinese vessels sailed between Okinawa and Miyakojima islands. Although they did not intrude into Japan’s territory, Chinese helicopters conducted flight operations onboard the Liaoning in the East China Sea.
Japan Times stated that the Chinese ships likely conducted exercises in the Pacific and passed near Okinawa Prefecture to check military activities, especially as the allies, including Japan, U.S., and others have recently voiced more concerns about Taiwan’s safety amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
In addition, the U.S. and Japan both view Taiwan as a key partner in pushing back China’s attempts to change the status quo in the region via aggression.
For now, China has two active carriers, Liaoning and Shandong. The Liaoning is a refurbished Soviet vessel, while the Shandong is the country’s first domestically produced carrier.
An analysis last November posted on the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies website said that China was three to six months from launching its third carrier, which is around this time.
However, Japan Times noted the timing depends on the COVID-19 pandemic and political considerations. This autumn, China is going to have a crucial conclave, with Xi poised to win a third term in office.