This picture taken on an undisclosed date in December 2016 shows Chinese J-15 fighter jets waiting on the deck of the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military drills in the Bohai Sea, off China's northeast coast. (Photo : Getty Images)
The Liaoning, the first aircraft carrier commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force, led a fleet of battleships in the Western Pacific Ocean. This will be for China's first training exercises off Chinese waters to showcase the carrier's defense capabilities as well as battle readiness.
According to the Japanese defense ministry's joint staff press release, Japan spotted seven Chinese naval ships accompanying the Liaoning, passing the Miyako Strait. The fleet comprises of three frigates, three destroyers and one supply ship.
Liang Yang, the spokesperson of the People's Liberation Army of China, said in an official statement that the Liaoning will head to the Western Pacific to conduct military drills.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said: "In general, the composition of this battle group is similar to other countries', except China doesn't have a guided missile cruiser. In this battle group, the destroyers are responsible for early warning air-defense and anti-aircraft missions, and the frigates defend against anti-surface vessels and anti-submarine missions."
In addition, he said that "in the past four years, China's first aircraft carrier conducted exercises in the Yellow Sea, the South China Sea and the East China Sea before the Western Pacific, and these prove that the Liaoning and the battle group have achieved combat capability."
A report from navy.81.cn, a daily website for the PLA, indicated that the Liaoning conducted drills in the East China Sea last Saturday morning under the supervision of Wu Shengli, commander of the PLA navy.
Li Jia, a navy expert based in Beijing, said: "As the world's second-largest economy with tremendous overseas interests, China needs aircraft carrier battle groups with long-distance capability to protect its national interests.
"This is a show of strength and showcases China's resolve and ability to safeguard its sovereignty over South China Sea islands and maritime interests."
Zhao, a research fellow from the Center on China-U.S. Defense Relations of the PLA Academy of Military Science, stated that the Liaoning has no intention of alarming other countries with its military exercises on the Western Pacific.
He said: "Liaoning's training in the Western Pacific is not a military deterrent to the U.S., Japan or Taiwan island, but this deployment will make them nervous because an aircraft carrier is a strategic weapon."