Chinese destroyer during long distance exercises in the Sea of ​​Japan

BEIJING (AP) — One of China’s largest and most capable combat ships is conducting long-range drills in the Sea of ​​Japan, state media reported Thursday, in a demonstration of the growing naval reach from China.

The Communist Party newspaper Global Times said the mission was the first for the Type 055 Lhasa destroyer since it was commissioned last year.

It is accompanied by the Chengdu Type 052D Luyang-class destroyer and the Type 903 tanker Dongpinghu, the newspaper said, citing the Japanese Defense Ministry. The Sea of ​​Japan is located in northern China between the Japanese Archipelago, Sakhalin Island, the Korean Peninsula and the Russian Far East.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said the three ships were spotted about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of Fukue Island in Nagasaki on Sunday, moving east toward the Sea of ​​Japan. .

He said he also spotted a Dongdiao-class intelligence vessel operating near the Tsushima Strait on Sunday, which then sailed into the Sea of ​​Japan.

The Chinese Navy has been building ships at a breakneck pace and now has the largest naval force in the world by number of hulls.

These ships are also increasingly sophisticated, with the Type 055, also known as the Nanchang class, featuring a stealthy design and packing air defense missiles and anti-ship and anti-land cruise missiles, as well as torpedoes.

China is believed to have ordered five of the first planned Type 055 destroyers.

The US military categorizes the Type 055 as a Renhai-class cruiser and considers them partly as carrier escort. China operates two aircraft carriers and the launch of a third is said to be imminent.

Citing military experts, Global Times said the destroyer was part of China’s military buildup aimed at deterring foreign intervention in the event of an attack on Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its own and threatens to annex by force.

Such a conflict would almost certainly attract the United States, which supplies Taiwan with defensive arms and is legally bound to treat threats to the island as matters of “grave concern”, as well as its most important and important treaty allies. geographically closest. being Japan.

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