A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy flotilla led by a Type 075 amphibious assault ship was recently spotted breaking the first island chain from straits south of Japan, marking the first time that this type of large warship was reported operating in vicinity of the island country.

Likely a part of an untargeted routine exercise that demonstrates and further hones the vessels’ combat readiness, the voyage could also serve to give those with a guilty conscience a warning, including “Taiwan independence” secessionists and external interference forces, analysts said on Saturday.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force spotted the PLA Navy flotilla consisting of the Type 075 amphibious assault ship Guangxi and Type 052D destroyer Baotou when the vessels sailed from the East China Sea through the Osumi Strait into the West Pacific waters south of Japan from Thursday to Friday, while the Type 054A frigate Anyang and the Type 903A comprehensive replenishment ship Chaohu sailed from the East China Sea through the sea area between Amami Oshima and Yokoate-jima into the same West Pacific region, Japan’s Defense Ministry Joint Staff confirmed in a press release on Friday.

Japan deployed reconnaissance and fighter aircraft as well as a missile boat on alert missions in attempts to monitor Chinese activities, the Japanese press release said.

This is apparently the first time that a Type 075 amphibious assault ship has crossed Japan’s surrounding straits into the West Pacific for training, and also the first time that the Guangxi, the second hull of the Type 075, has broken the first island chain for exercise after the Hainan, the first hull of Type 075, went out of the island chain from the South China Sea earlier this year.

The first long-distance sea voyage indicated that the Guangxi has reached full operational capability, observers said.

Zhang Xuefeng, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times that combat environments are very different in open seas when compared with coastal waters, so far sea drills can enable the sailors to better understand maritime environments, including different ocean currents, sea temperatures and undersea terrain.

It can also hone the sailors’ capabilities in independently dealing with close-in disturbance from foreign aircraft and vessels, Zhang said.

The third Type 075, the Anhui, is also expected to hold similar exercises in the near future, analysts said.

Characterized by strong multidimensional amphibious landing capabilities and capable of carrying dozens of helicopters in addition to landing craft and amphibious armored vehicles, the Type 075 is widely seen by analysts to have a significant role to play in resolving the Taiwan question.

It would be interesting to see where the flotilla will go next, but the voyage is likely a scheduled regular far sea exercise that aims to enhance the vessels’ capabilities and dose not aim at any third party, another Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Saturday.

But those with a guilty conscience, including “Taiwan independence” secessionists and external interference forces that attempt to suppress China’s rightful development, could also see this as a warning, the expert said.

The US, Japan and the Philippines recently held a trilateral security meeting in which they discussed “security challenges” in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and planned to hold regular joint exercises in the South China Sea, according to reports.

In response, Senior Colonel Zhang Xiaogang, a spokesperson at China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a regular press conference on Thursday that some countries outside the region are stirring up trouble for their own selfish interests, and countries within the region should be highly vigilant against this.

On the Taiwan question, Zhang stressed that the PLA has the capability and the confidence to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely crush “Taiwan independence” secessionist and foreign interference schemes.