Two amphibious landing ships of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy were recently spotted in waters off the eastern side of the island of Taiwan, sending a strong warning to “Taiwan independence” forces and external interference, after the US delivered Stinger missiles to the island, experts said on Tuesday.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force spotted a PLA flotilla consisting of a Sovremenny-class destroyer, a Type 054 frigate, and two Type 071 amphibious landing ships when the warships sailed northward in waters between the eastern side of the island of Taiwan and Yonaguni Island, Okinawa on Friday, Japan’s Ministry of Defense Joint Staff said in a press release on Monday.
The PLA naval vessels continued northward and sailed past the Diaoyu Islands from the west, the Japanese press release said.
While Japan claimed it sent forces to monitor and gather intelligence on the Chinese naval activities, it failed to provide additional details, including photos or hull numbers of the ships.
It is uncommon for the Type 071 amphibious landing ship to be spotted in this region. The last recorded comparable activity was in November 2021, when Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported two Type 071s carried out a landing exercise near Hualien in waters to the east of the Taiwan island.
Even during the two PLA large-scale Taiwan island encirclement exercises that served as countermeasures against then US house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in August 2022, and Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with current US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the US in April this year, amphibious landing forces did not apparently participate, observers said.
The latest PLA activity came only one day after the first shipment of US FIM-92 Stinger missiles arrived in the island of Taiwan on Thursday.
With the amphibious landing drills, the PLA is increasingly prepared for amphibious landing missions from all sides of the island of Taiwan, including the east side, a Chinese mainland military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.
It is likely that the flotilla made a circle around the island of Taiwan, first sailing southward from the Taiwan Straits to the west of the island, then northward from waters to the east of the island, the expert said.
The “Taiwan independence” forces and external interference forces should stop playing with fire and stop resisting reunification by force, the experts said.
The Type 071 is a large comprehensive landing ship with more than 20,000 tons of displacement that can carry a large number of troops together with amphibious armored vehicles, air-cushioned landing craft with tanks, and helicopters, enabling the PLA to carry out both horizontal and vertical landing operations.
On the same day the Type 071s were spotted, the defense authority on the island of Taiwan detected 33 PLA aircraft and 10 PLA vessels around the island, according to a statement it released on Saturday.
These figures are well above the daily average for the PLA’s routine patrols and drills around the island, so it is possible that the PLA held a larger joint exercise on that day, analysts said.
Later on Saturday, a PLA Navy flotilla led by the aircraft carrier Shandong sailed through the Taiwan Straits, Taiwan’s defense authority said on the day. It is not immediately known if the two activities were related, as the PLA has yet to announce either of the activities.