(Stars and Stripes) CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Chinese aircraft carrier sailed between two islands of Japan’s Okinawa prefecture twice in April. , according to Japanese defense officials.
The Chinese carrier Liaoning and its five-ship strike group were spotted at around 9 a.m. Tuesday approximately 50 miles southeast of Miyako, a Japan Ministry of Defense Joint Staff statement said Tuesday. The ships sailed north, passing between Okinawa itself and Miyako at about 10 a.m. before traversing the East China Sea later that day.
The Liaoning strike group was spotted by the JS Kongo (DDG-173), a guided-missile destroyer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the destroyer JS Umigiri (DD-158) and a P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, the statement said. The Liaoning was accompanied by two Chinese guided-missile destroyers, two multi-role warships and one supply-class fast combat support ship.
It was the second time the strike group had traveled through the 155-mile-wide strait in April and just the fifth time since the Liaoning was commissioned in 2012.
Liaoning was originally laid down in 1985 for the Soviet Navy as the Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser Riga, she was launched on 4 December 1988 and renamed Varyag in 1990 as part of a sales program to India. After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, construction was halted and the ship was put up for sale by Ukraine. China bought it in 1998 and towed the hulk toThe the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China. Between then and 2019, when the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy (PLAN) announced that it was ready for combat, it underwent a lot of changes. The PLAN also knocked off a copy (made in China), the Shandong, Communist China’s second aircraft carrier.
“This is the first time the Chinese Navy made round-trip passage through the Miyako Strait,” a spokesman from the Japanese Joint Staff told Stars and Stripes Wednesday. “The coronavirus (Chinese Plague) will not affect our mission. We will keep eyes on them very closely.”
The first Liaoning passage occurred after a coronavirus outbreak sidelined the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam, leaving the U.S. without a carrier on patrol in the western Pacific. Meanwhile, the Navy moved to control an outbreak among the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan in port at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, for scheduled maintenance.
“In addition to its trips through Miyako Strait, Chinese vessels sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the South China Sea, deployed maritime militias around the contested Spratly Islands and established new “research stations” on the disputed Fiery Cross and Subi reefs, all in the past six weeks,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement last week.