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Chinese carrier marks foray into Second Island Chain

A file image of J-15 operations on the deck of Liaoning . The carrier's sister ship, Shandong , carried out a series of operations in the Western Pacific, including a passage near Guam, in April 2023. (AFP/Getty Images)

In what appears to be the latest flex of its projection capabilities, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has deployed its second aircraft carrier, Shandong, to within 400 n mile of the US island territory of Guam.

According to a map released on 25 April by the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), from 13 April the carrier and its strike group began steaming in a southeasterly direction from waters east of Taiwan, where it has been taking part in Exercise ‘Joint Sword'.

Accompanying the carrier in its task group during this exercise and its passage thereafter were a Luyang III (Type 052D/DL)-class destroyer, two Jiangkai II (Type 054A)-class frigates, and a Fuyu (Type 901)-class replenishment vessel.

The task group then sailed eastwards towards the Mariana Islands on 14 April before heading southwards on 15 April. Based on a map infographic provided in the JSDF map, Janes estimates that this part of the passage brought the carrier task group within 400 n mile of Guam.

The estimation can be corroborated with a report published by the China state-owned Global Times on 25 April. “On April 15 and 16, it [Shandong] reached waters about 600 to 700 kilometres to the west of Guam, a militarised island used by the US as a key node in the Second Island Chain, before returning through the Bashi Channel to the east of the island of Taiwan on Monday,” said the Global Times report.

The report also gave further information that Shandong

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