A Chinese carrier strike group has been conducting drills that simulate attacks on Japan’s Nansei Islands since Dec. 16, Chinese government sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is said to have instructed the military to start the drills on the day the Japanese government unveiled three major defense-related documents.
According to the sources, a unit operating in the western Pacific south of Okinawa Prefecture led by the Chinese Navy’s aircraft carrier Liaoning is involved in the drills, which are scheduled to end on Dec. 26. The sources said the exercises also involve type 055 missile destroyers — advanced vessels capable of ground attacks.
China will reportedly conduct long-range strike drills from waters in the western Pacific, simulating missile launches targeting islands in the Nansei chain, on which Japan is considering deploying missiles. Ship-borne aircraft have already started night landing and takeoff drills.
The Chinese military’s carrier strike group usually holds annual winter exercises around December. This year, Xi designated a start date. On Dec. 16, the Japanese government adopted three documents including the National Security Strategy.
Xi ordered the Chinese military to conduct the drills on the same day. Strategic bombers will also simulate a pincer attack on Taiwan from the east and west during the drills, according to the sources. According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the Liaoning and other vessels in the carrier strike group were confirmed to have passed between Okinawa and Miyako islands, entering the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 16. They sailed 260 kilometers west-southwest of Okidaito Island the following day, and on Tuesday this week, they were seen 450 kilometers east-northeast of Kitadaito Island. From that location, ship-borne aircraft can get to the Nansei chain in 5 to 10 minutes. About 130 takeoffs and landings by ship-borne aircraft and helicopters have reportedly been conducted.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, the Chinese military has adopted a strategy of active defense, which could lead to a preemptive strike on an adversary if Beijing believes it is about to be attacked. The acquisition of counterattack capabilities is stated in Japan’s security documents and the Xi administration is wary of a large Japanese deployment of missiles on the Nansei Islands.
The Chinese government sources said the aim of the exercises is to undermine Japan’s security strategy against China. According to the Chinese Defense Ministry, the Chinese Navy also began joint exercises with the Russian Navy off Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province, on Wednesday. The ministry said the exercises will include anti-submarine and maritime blockade drills.
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