China Deploys Aircraft Carrier Strike Group off Taiwan’s East Coast

April 6, 2023 9:42 AM
CNS Shandong operating near Taiwan on April 4, 2023. JMSDF Photo

China deployed an aircraft carrier strike group off Taiwan’s east coast, military officials in Taipei and Tokyo confirmed Thursday.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Shandong Carrier Strike Group (CSG) deployment began Wednesday, the same day Taiwan’s president met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

The carrier strike group is now operating off Taiwan’s east coast after transiting the Bashi channel on Wednesday in its first training voyage in the Western Pacific.

CNS Shandong (17), its embarked air wing and its escorts passed through the southeast waters of Taiwan to start its first training voyage in the Western Pacific,  Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday. The release added that both sea and air units along with ground-based radars detected and monitored the group’s movement.

The Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense said Shandong was accompanied by frigate CNS Liuzhou (573) and fleet oiler CNS Chaganhu (905) was sighted by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Wednesday. The PLAN ships traveled eastward in an area 186 miles south of Hateruma Island. Japanese guided-missile destroyer JS Sawagiri (DD-157) shadowed the PLAN ships.

Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng on Thursday that the carrier was currently 200 nautical miles off Taiwan’s east coast. No aircraft have been seen taking off from it.

“We firmly oppose all forms of official interaction between the United States and Taiwan and any visit by leader of the Taiwan authorities to the United States in any name or under whatever pretext,” reads a Thursday statement from China’s Ministry of National Defense. “We firmly oppose the U.S. side’s contact with the Democratic Progressive Party authorities in any form, which violates the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiques.”

Approximate location of CNS Shandong (17) on April 4, 2023. Japanese Ministry of Defense Image

“The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China will stand by its responsibility and mission and always keep on high alert. The PLA will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” according to the release.

Beijing has been silent on Shandong’s deployment.

Pentagon officials downplayed the strike group’s deployment on Wednesday.

“We’re seeing these naval ships operating in international waters. Again, we do not believe that President Tsai’s transit is any cause for any type of pretext for aggression or overreaction,” said Defense Department spokesperson Sabrina Singh said in a press briefing.

The deployment comes as China’s carrier CNS Liaoning (16) is in maintenance while its third carrier, CNS Fujian (18), is in its fitting-out stage. The Shandong CSG’s composition is smaller compared to Liaoning’s deployment in December.

Liaoning was accompanied by five other ships. The Liaoning CSG also operated on both occasions in the vicinity of Japan rather than Taiwan.

Other PLAN ships have also been operating near Japan and Taiwan within the last week, according to Japanese officials. China’s Dongdiao class intelligence ship Kaiyangxing (796) is operating around Japan, according to a Tuesday release by the Joint Staff Office of Japan’s Ministry of Defense. On Monday, the JMSDF spotted the PLAN surveillance ship sailing northeast in an area 50 miles southwest of Cape Tatsuhi, Honshu. On the same day Kaiyangxing sailed through the Tsugaru Strait which separates the main islands of Honshu and Hokkaido to enter the Pacific Ocean.

The JMSDF spotted destroyer CNS Changchun (150) and frigate CNS Anyang (599) sailing south in an area 50 miles northeast of Miyako Island. The two PLAN warships subsequently sailed south through the Miyako Strait to enter the Pacific Ocean, destroyer Sawagiri together with a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa monitored the PLAN ships, according to officlas.

Changchun was sighted on Tuesday sailing 37 miles south of Yonaguni Island and then sailed northwards between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan. It was then sighted on Wednesday sailing north in an area 44 miles west of Uotsuri Island. A JMSDF P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya Air Base, Kyushu and a JMSDF P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 5 monitored the PLAN ship.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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