Thursday, February 09, 2012

PLA sorties into Pacific threaten encirclement of Taiwan

The PLAN presence in the Pacific enhances its ability to fight all around Taiwan and not just along the west coast, the traditional direction from which a Chinese attack would come

Sorties by the Chinese navy into the Pacific Ocean are becoming more commonplace and provide it with the means to familiarize itself with the environment surrounding Taiwan, while creating a new front from which to attack in case of conflict, an analyst said.

Four frigates from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) were spotted in waters between Miyako Island and Okinawa Island on Friday, the Japanese Ministry of Defense said last week. All four ships, which were tracked by a P-3C patrol aircraft deployed by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces, were traveling from the direction of the East China Sea toward the Pacific Ocean, where they conducted exercises.

The ships — the Type 054A Jiangkai II-class missile frigate Changzhou (pictured), the Jiangwei II-class Jiangxing and Lianyungang and the Jiangwei I-class Tongling — stayed in international waters and did not enter Japanese territorial waters, the ministry said.

All the ships, which are part of China’s East Sea Fleet, are equipped with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles.

The 300km-wide channel between Okinawa and Miyako, known as the Miyako Strait, is regarded as one of the most convenient routes for Chinese vessels heading for the Pacific. Chinese vessels went through it in June 2010 and twice last year as they headed for exercises in the Pacific.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. My take on the same subject for Jane's Defence Weekly is available here (subscription required).

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