China’s second aircraft carrier successfully sailed through the Taiwan Straits on Sunday and headed toward a designated area in the South China Sea for testing and training, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy announced on Monday.
Experts said that the trip from Northeast China could be the last step in the trial phase of the warship, which is expected to enter naval service, possibly at a naval base in Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province.
Preparing the domestically built aircraft carrier for this cross-regional testing and training is a normal arrangement in the construction of the carrier, said Cheng Dewei, spokesperson of the PLA Navy, in a video released by the PLA Navy on its Sina Weibo account on Monday.
The trip is not aimed at any specific target, and is not related to other ongoing issues, Cheng said.
There is nothing to be surprised about China’s warships undergoing routine training at its own doorstep, and others should stop disrupting China’s normal military activities, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a routine press conference on Monday, in response to a question on China’s second aircraft carrier’s passage through the Taiwan Straits.
The yet-to-be-named domestically developed carrier is believed to be on its ninth sea trial after leaving the Dalian Shipyard in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province on Thursday, Hong Kong-based wenweipo.com reported on Thursday.
A military expert who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Monday that conducting a sea trial in the South China Sea will make the aircraft carrier crew become familiar with the area where it will often sail. The crew is expected to study the southern seas and affirm that the testing done in the Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea near the Dalian Shipyard remains viable in southern waters.
The video shows J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets on the flight deck as the aircraft carrier was being escorted by other naval vessels.
Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times on Monday that a sea trial involving an aircraft carrier fleet that includes multiple other vessels is needed before the carrier is commissioned.
After the sea trial in the South China Sea, the carrier could sail to a naval port in Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province for a commissioning ceremony that will see it finally join the PLA Navy, experts predicted.
The port in Sanya hosted China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in 2013, as it has facilities to meet the needs for hosting all kinds of large naval vessels, the Xinhua News Agency reported in November 2013.
The Chaganhu, China’s second Type 901 aircraft carrier supply ship, is stationed in the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy, state-owned news website cnr.cn reported on Friday. This is another indication that the second aircraft carrier could be stationed in the south, analysts said.
If the domestically developed aircraft carrier is indeed hosted by the Sanya naval port over the long term, the South China Sea will be right at its doorstep, and not far from the island of Taiwan, analysts said.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is based in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province. While an aircraft carrier should be able to mobilize to distance waters, just as the Liaoning has sailed to the South China Sea and even passed the Miyako Strait in the past, having one based in South China will allow faster reaction time if the South China Sea requires a Chinese carrier’s presence, analysts said, noting that the Liaoning can then focus more on the east.
While China is striving to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, some countries from outside the region have been stirring trouble and causing instability, another Chinese expert said, noting that the commissioning of the new aircraft carrier will safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, protect peace in the South China Sea and help China fulfill its responsibility as a major country for regional and world peace.
Observers noted that as China’s naval strength grows, it will naturally and constantly show up at important occasions around the globe, but is not about flexing muscle or following any political agenda as some countries are used to doing.
Source: Global Times