BEIJING: The aircraft carrier Shandong returned to its home port in Hainan “in recent days,” according to China’s military, following a month-long cruise that included transits around Taiwan for drills and a flex of muscles as far out as the Western Pacific.
The Shandong has been sighted this year in the Taiwan Strait, the Bashi canal between Taiwan and the Philippines, and even as far away as Guam. For the first time, it took part in rehearsals simulating attacks by fighter jets launched from an aircraft carrier on democratically controlled Taiwan in early April.
The display of power came after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which enraged Beijing, which saw the encounter as intervention in Chinese internal matters and US backing for Taiwan’s separate identity from China.
The Shandong participated in a security patrol surrounding Taiwan as part of the “Joint Sword” military exercise, according to the Southern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
“The Shandong carrier group went to the waters of the western Pacific for the first time, in a formation and scale,” it added.
The carrier, which was commissioned in 2019, has been heavily featured in Chinese military propaganda. During the April drills, China displayed numerous photographs of the Shandong and its fighter planes taking off from the carrier.
The USS Milius passed through the Taiwan Strait in what the US Navy termed as a “routine” passage just days after China concluded its latest war games surrounding the island.
In March 2022, the Shandong, one of China’s two operational carriers, traveled across the Taiwan Strait just hours before a meeting between the Chinese and US presidents.
China has increased military pressure on Taiwan in recent years in an attempt to force Taiwan to embrace Chinese sovereignty. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to seize control of the island.