Chinese Warships Circle Japan, Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan Prepare for Spring Patrol

May 9, 2023 6:28 PM

Chinese warships have been circling the Japanese home islands for the last week, according to the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

People’s Liberation Army Navy guided-missile destroyers CNS Guiyang (119) and CNS Qiqihar (121) and fleet oiler CNS Taihu (889) were seen Friday sailing northeast in an area 25 miles northwest of Rebun island, which lies 30 miles off the northwest tip off the main island of Hokkaido.

Cruiser CNS Lhasa (102) and frigate CNS Zaozhuang (542) were also sighted midnight Saturday sailing northeast in the same area.

All five ships then sailed through La Pérouse Strait, which separates Hokkaido from Russia’s Sakhalin Island, into the Sea of Okhotsk.

Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) fast attack craft JS Wakataka (PG-825) and JMSDF P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 2, based at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base monitored the PLAN ships. The PLAN ships previously transited northeast through the Tsushima Strait on April 30.

PLAN Dongdia-class intelligence ship Kaiyangxing (796) is circling around the Honshu island, the JSO said Friday. The PLAN ship was sighted sailing northeast in an area 18 miles southwest of Cape Tappi, Honshu. Kaiyangxing then sailed through the Tsugaru Strait which separates the Japanese main island of Honshu and Hokkaido.

The PLAN ship was monitored by minesweeper JS Aoshima (MSC-689) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 2.

On Monday, the PLAN ship was sighted sailing southwest in an area 37 miles southeast of Sumisu Island, part of the Izu Island chain which lies south of Japan’s capital of Tokyo.

Kaiyangxing subsequently sailed between Sumisu Island and the island of Tori-Shima while a P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 4, based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, monitored the PLAN ship. The releases noted that Kaiyangxing had transited northeast through the Tsushima Strait on April 29.

On May 3rd, PLAN destroyer CNS Baotou (133) and frigate CNS Xuzhou (530) sailed southwest in an area 50 miles northwest of Uotsuri Island, part of the disputed Senkaku Islands administered by Japan and claimed by both China and Taiwan.


The PLAN ships then sailed south through an area 50 miles west of Uotsuri and continued sailing south between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan.

On Monday, the two PLAN ships transited westward through the Osumi Strait, which lies south of the main island of Kyushu to enter the East China Sea.

The PLAN ships were shadowed by destroyer JS Sawagiri (DD-157), fleet oiler JS Hamana (AOE-424), a JMSDF P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 4 and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 4, based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa.

Meanwhile, U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) attached to carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) began field carrier landing practice in Iwo Jima Tuesday as part of the Yokosuka-based Carrier Strike Group 5’s preparation toward its Western Pacific patrol.

The MoD announced Monday that U.S. Navy aircraft assigned to carrier Ronald Reagan will operate on Iwo Jima from Tuesday through May 19 for night flights.

On Monday, the Indian Navy and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded the inaugural ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise (AIME) held May 2-8 in the South China Sea.

The at-sea phase was held Sunday and Monday in the South China Sea, while the harbor phase was held from May 2-4 at Changi Naval Base, Singapore.

The ships also participated in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX) Asia 2023, held from March 3-5, with AIME ships departing Changi Friday for the exercise.

The Indian Navy despatched destroyer INS Delhi (D61) and frigate INS Satpura (F48) together with an Indian Navy P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.

ASEAN participants were Indonesian Navy frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332), Philippines Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) frigate RSS Supreme (73), Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) offshore patrol vessel KDB Darulehsan (07), Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) frigate KD Lekiu (FFGH30), Royal Thai Navy offshore patrol vessel HTMS Pattani (511) and Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) VPNS Tran Hung Dao (HQ-015).

Chinese Maritime Militia ships operated as close as 44 miles to the AIME naval task force based on AIS data, bu India nor the ASEAN countries have been put out statements as to whether the Maritime Militia ships interfered with the exercise.

The ASEAN ships taking part in the exercise are sailing on to the Philippines with the Philippine Navy hosting the 17th ASEAN Navy Chiefs Meeting Wednesday with a fleet review in Olongapo, Zambales, Thursday and the 2nd ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise beginning Friday.

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.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox