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Chinese aircraft carrier maneuver aimed at achieving multiple results

ROC Central News Agency

04/26/2020 04:30 PM

Taipei, April 26 (CNA) A recent training mission of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, which sailed through waters near Japan and Taiwan and into the South China Sea near Vietnam, has been seen by a Taiwanese defense analyst as a maneuver with the aim of "hitting three birds with one stone."

Wang Tsun-Yen (王尊彥), an assistant research fellow at the Division of Non-traditional Security and Military Missions under the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), made the observation in the debut issue of the Defense Security Biweekly April 24.

The Liaoning's long-range training mission that began on April 10, taking it through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa, then moving past eastern Taiwan and entering the South China Sea through the Bashi channel, could be in response to two maritime incidents involving Japan and Vietnam, Wang said.

On March 30, a Chinese fishing boat collided with the Japanese destroyer Shimakaze in the East China Sea, while on April 2, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea.

There were 10 injuries but no loss of life in the two incidents.

Beijing's decision to sail the Liaoning and its escort ships through waters near Japan instead of going to the South China Sea directly through the Taiwan Strait, showed that the voyage was clearly targeted at Japan, although it was also designed to exert pressure on Vietnam, Wang said.

He speculated that the Chinese fishing boat's collision with Japan's destroyer could be part of an asymmetric move to drive Japan's Self-Defense Force out of the area, citing reports that the Chinese fishing boat was actually a militia vessel.

As to the incident in the South China Sea, although it was not the first time China and Vietnam had clashed at sea, judging from the timing, China might have been wanting to teach the Southeast Asian neighbor a lesson for getting too close to Japan and the United States, Wang said, citing the visit of the Japanese helicopter carrier Izumo to Vietnam in June 2019, and a port call of U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in March 2020.

As most U.S. aircraft carriers are currently docked due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, China wants to convey the message that "the U.S. big brother is not reliable" and that the "Chinese People's Liberation Army is not affected by the outbreak and still can go to your doorsteps," Wang said.

"With the Chinese navy fleet's sailing routes, it is quite obvious that China wants to show its muscle to Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan with a strategy aimed at hitting three birds with one stone," he said.

However, Wang said that China does not want to further escalate tension on two fronts at the same time, as Japan and Vietnam both play important roles in geopolitics and Beijing itself is busy handling internal and external problems, including the coronavirus pandemic.

As Japan and Vietnam have strengthened two-way security cooperation, including the signing of several agreements and Japan's donations of patrol boats to Vientam amid China's increased assertiveness, any easing of tension in the region is unlikely in the near future, Wang concluded.

(By Emerson Lim)

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