China’s first aircraft carrier departed for distant waters for naval exercises recently, sending a message the country is ready to project power and put pressure on the U.S. and others.
“A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, headed towards the [Western] Pacific on Saturday for scheduled blue-water training,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency revealed Saturday.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) declared the Liaoning combat ready in November.
“As a military force, we are always prepared for war…We are prepared for actual combat at any time,” explained Li Dongyou, the political commissar for the Liaoning.
The carrier fleet participated in live-ammunition exercises for the first time on Dec. 15. The Liaoning engaged in reconnaissance, aircraft interception, naval strikes, and missile defense drills.
The Liaoning conducted blue-water training in the Western Pacific recently.
The carrier, accompanied by several destroyers and frigates, sailed through the East China Sea, into the Western Pacific, past Taiwan, and through the South China Sea, raising alarms in Taiwan and Japan.
While China may have been sending a warning to the separatist territory and its long-time rival, the latest voyage appears designed to send a message to the U.S.
China is signaling to the U.S. that the navy has broken through the “first island chain,” argues senior Taiwan lawmaker Johnny Chiang. More importantly, though, China is hinting at its long-term strategic intentions.
“Aircraft carriers are strategic tools which should be used to show China’s strength,” the Global Times stressed Sunday. “China’s core interests are mainly offshore, but the range of aircraft carriers must go beyond offshore areas.”
“It should have the ability and courage to sail further. It should not only pass the first island chain, but also sail past the second island chain and go to the waters where Chinese cruise fleets have never been.”
“The Chinese fleet will cruise to the Eastern Pacific sooner or later. When China’s aircraft carrier fleet appears in offshore areas of the U.S. one day, it will trigger intense thinking about maritime rules,” the Chinese paper added, “If the fleet is able to enter areas where the U.S. has core interests, the situation when the U.S. unilaterally imposes pressure on China will change.”
“The Chinese military must be resolute. China will not be easily irritated, but once it is, it will take firm countermeasures,” the editorial concluded.
The Liaoning is the standard bearer for the PLAN.
The aircraft carrier was originally a Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The ship was bought by the Chinese in the late 1990s, hauled to China a few years later, and developed into China’s first aircraft carrier.
The Liaoning was commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy in September 2012.
“As a combat platform, regarding technology and capability to execute missions, China still lags behind the U.S.,” Li Dongyu said in November.
China is, however, working to improve the capabilities of the Liaoning. Furthermore, China is developing its own independently-produced aircraft carrier.
“In a few years, China will have more aircraft carriers that bear more combat capabilities. This will not be far off,” the Global Times introduced.
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