“Some of the warplanes headed towards the western Pacific through Bashi Channel to join the Shandong for a joint sea and air training.”
The ministry said it had sent warplanes and warships to monitor the PLA’s sea and air activities and it deployed missile systems in response.
The latest sorties bring the total number of PLA warplanes detected around Taiwan in the past three days to 84, with 50 crossing the median line and entering the island’s southwest ADIZ near the Bashi Channel.
The ministry said it had also spotted 33 warships sailing around Taiwan in the past three days, with 20 detected – the largest fleet in recent months – as the Shandong sailed past Taiwan towards the western Pacific on Monday for combat training.
Japan’s defence ministry reported the passage of eight PLA warships into the Pacific via the Miyako Strait, south of Okinawa, on Tuesday.
While Taiwan’s defence ministry did not identify the PLA warships, it released a photo on Wednesday showing the island’s navy had sent the Kee Lung destroyer to shadow the Shandong as it sailed past Taiwan days before. The Kee Lung is the lead ship of the Taiwanese navy’s four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers.
Su Tzu-yun, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Defence and Security Research, a government-funded think tank in Taipei, said the joint sea and air training involving the Shandong and clusters of warplanes and warships indicated there were major PLA naval manoeuvres with the carrier.
“It is considered the largest PLA naval training in recent months,” he said, adding that the joint drill was intended to prepare the Shandong “to be more combat-ready” while flexing the PLA’s muscles in the region.
He said the long-range training was also a show of force by the PLA in response to recent joint drills staged by the US and its allies, including exercises conducted by Washington along with Japan, Australia and the Philippines in the South China Sea in late August.
It was also in response to the Super Garuda Shield drills, which were launched on August 31 and brought together seven participating and 12 observing nations for a two-week combined joint multilateral exercise.
Major General Huang Wen-chi, of the ministry’s general staff for intelligence, said the Shandong would form a new risk for the island.
“The Shandong, flanked by such new destroyers as [the] Type 052C and Type O52D, evidently would form a considerable threat to our near-sea and coastal defence but the carrier still does not possess full capability in air and sea strikes,” he said in Taipei on Tuesday.
Compared with the Fujian, which is the PLA’s third and most advanced aircraft carrier, the Shandong, commissioned in 2019, is smaller and uses less-efficient ski-jump ramps for aircraft take-offs.
Beijing, which views Taiwan as its territory that must be taken under control, by force if necessary, considered the high-level exchange a violation of its sovereignty and a breach of Washington’s one-China policy.
Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state, but are opposed to the unilateral change of the cross-strait status quo by force.