China aircraft carrier's planned drill warning for Taiwan
Central News Agency
Taipei, Dec. 25 (CNA) China's reported plan to sail its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the first island chain toward the Western Pacific should serve as a warning for Taiwan and the United States, according to a Hong Kong military commentator.
The Liaoning is set to take part in its first blue-water military exercises in the Western Pacific, media reports have stated, citing China's military. The ship will be part of a wider naval formation deployed to the region.
"The Liaoning will conduct military drills in the Western Pacific," China's state-run Global Times reported Saturday, citing People's Liberation Army Navy spokesperson Liang Yang.
The Western Pacific stretches from China to New Zealand and encompasses countries in the Pacific, Oceania and parts of Asia.
It is believed to be the first time the Liaoning, which was commissioned by the Chinese navy in 2012, will have participated in open sea training.
The "first island chain" refers to the major archipelagos off the East Asian continental mainland, including Japan, Taiwan and the northern Philippines.
The carrier recently carried out its first live-fire exercises with several destroyers and frigates in the Yellow Sea. The drills were normal Chinese arrangements and involved China's indigenous J-15 fighter, which has been assigned to the Liaoning, according to the reports.
On Dec. 23, 12 J-15s took off from the Liaoning and carried out assignments including air refueling and air confrontation in the Yellow Sea, Hong Kong's Ming Pao daily reported Sunday, citing video footage released by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).
China's top naval commander, Adm. Wu Shengli, was shown aboard, watching the exercises.
Participation in an open-sea training exercise is a mission required for almost all carriers, Hong Kong military commentator Liang Kuo-liang (梁國樑) told the Ming Pao.
However, the Liaoning's passage signals a warning for Taiwan, Liang said, adding that the carrier could sail to waters near Taiwan, block foreign interference in the Taiwan Strait and pose a threat to Taiwan's east coast areas.
Taiwan should also prepare for any new contingencies that could potentially harm cross-strait relations, Liang said.
Also, the move will show the United States the Liaoning's real combat ability and therefore, the U.S. should take the vessel into account while devising its strategy in the future, according to Liang.
In Taipei, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said Sunday that it would closely monitor the Liaoning's movement in the Western Pacific, especially if it should return to China via the Bashi Channel, which lies between southern Taiwan and the Philippines.
(By Evelyn Kao)
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