Satellite images show dozens of Chinese naval vessels putting on a huge show of force in the South China Sea
Satellite images have emerged showing dozens of Chinese naval vessels putting on a show of force in the South China Sea.
The overhead images confirm a carrier group has entered the vital trade waterway off Hainan island as part of what Beijing earlier described as combat drills that were part of routine annual exercises.
Up to 40 ships can be seen in a line formation with submarines flanking the carrier Liaoning and aircraft above.
Some analysts have described the movements, captured in photos taken on Monday and provided by Planet Labs Inc, as an unusually large display of the Chinese military's growing naval might.
The exercises come amid fresh signs of tension in the resource-rich waterway, with Vietnam recently halting oil exploration off its coast by Spanish firm Repsol under pressure from Beijing.
Beijing also objected to a so-called fre m of navigation patrol by a U.S. warship last week close to one of its artificial islands in the Spratlys archipelago further south.
According to the Taiwanese defence ministry, the Liaoning carrier group also crossed the Taiwan Strait last week.
Jeffrey Lewis, a security expert at the California-based based Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies, said the images showed the first confirmation that the carrier was joining the drills.
'It's an incredible picture,' he said. 'That's the big news to me. Confirmation that, yes, the carrier participated in the exercise.'
While the Liaoning has previously entered the South China Sea as part of drills in uncontested training grounds south of Hainan, its annual exercises are closely watched by regional and international powers eyeing Beijing's growing military might.
It is unclear where the flotilla was headed, or how long operations will last. China's defence ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, described the deployment as unusual for its size and scope.
'Judging by the images, it does seem they are keen to show that elements of the South Sea Fleet are able to routinely join up with the carrier strike group from Dalian in the north,' he said.
'It does seem they want to show inter-fleet interoperability - something the (Chinese) navy has been quietly working on for some time.'
Chinese naval and coast guard forces have expanded rapidly in recent years and now patrol the vast swathes of the South China Sea, but little is known about their combat readiness and co-ordination.
Koh said as well as the destroyers, frigates and submarines that would ordinarily support a carrier, the flotilla appeared to include a large oiler for re-supply as well as smaller corvettes and possibly fast attack catamarans.
'While it highlights an extensive ability to deploy, we are still left to guess at the PLAN's combat readiness,' Koh said.
As well as Vietnam, China's claims in the South China Sea are disputed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei while Taiwan also has claims.
preacher john, sheffield, United Kingdom, about 10 hours ago
Chinese and Russian influence and hegemony is increasing as the US retreats into isolationism. Trump will do nothing and indeed there is little the US can do short of war. American dominance is now a fading reality.
Shadowman, London, about 13 hours ago
Judging by their building standards with everything else they copy from around the world these shops have so fun done well to survive getting wet. Build quality like Russia ... c r a p.
preacher john, sheffield, United Kingdom, about 10 hours ago
Just keep telling yourself that. We should send our new and only aircraft carrier, the one that broke down and has no planes.
Earl of Broadstairs, London, United Kingdom, about 13 hours ago
China now number one in the world.
Public Spirit, Swansea, United Kingdom, about 22 hours ago
You still want that war, EU? Is that the only way you think you can unite Europe?
Noddy101, Dublin, Ireland, a day ago
An easy target for the US Navy
lustgarten, LiverpoolC, United Kingdom, a day ago
All taken out by one US destroyer.
Witzelsucht, Los Angeles, United States, a day ago
China builds up its arm forces, hogs the South China Sea, and threatens its neighbors while telling the world that China only wants peace.
Greedisgood999999, NanKing, China, about 14 hours ago
isn't it what your US have done in past tens years?
Nan C, Mt. Pleasant, United States, a day ago
Although they talk about building more, China and Russia only have one carrier each. What a huge show of force.
AAnE, Louisville Kentucky, United States, about 24 hours ago
They don't have a desire to project influence globally though. Therefore they don't really need large numbers of carriers. China wants to control the oceans in their hemisphere, thats why they are developing (and claiming sovereignty) of those territorial waters.
Destructivedave, Cambridge, United Kingdom, a day ago
The man that steals islands. Makes himself leader for life and is building the biggest weapons ever on western money. While all our countries manufacturing industries die because our go nment sold us out to cheap chinese emmission spewing cheap goods.
Gary, Atlanta, a day ago
So, we are scared by a regular military drill! That carrier is 30 to 40 years behind the US'. We even have trouble to manage our domestic gun control, let alone to deal with other countries' big guns. Wise up! The Taiwan defense ministry? What's happened to the one-China policy? We even cannot agree on our own national policy. This really does not deserve a comment and the time of anyone with a brain.
ell 81, st leonards on sea, United Kingdom, 1 day ago
All the noise fro Korea and Russia but these are the ones to watch.
allangre, Peterborough euSSR, United Kingdom, 1 day ago
Another emerging power that needs watching carefully. With Putin and Ji we need all our wits about us.
peterr, glos, 1 day ago
China has become more wealthy and lifted millions out of poverty by selling its goods and services to people who want to buy them. China needs to understand that if those people choose not to buy goods and services from them - they will not have enough of a market place in the rest of the world to make up the difference. All this military posturing is about securing their trade routes - but - I don't know who is threatening those routes and if goods and services are not required by the rest of the world, then what is the point of the posturing??
Geeezzzz your boring, Penguin, Antarctica, 1 day ago
Chinese fishing again? No just bullying the neighbours
M Cavendish-Wells, Kensington and Chelsea, United Kingdom, 1 day ago
Bye, bye USA empire. Welcome to the new China Empire.
Peter Stride, Earth, Canada, 1 day ago
China gearing up for war against it's neighbors.
Justice, UK, United Kingdom, 1 day ago
Chinese equipment barely functions under peace time conditions, place it in a war like scenario and 70% of it would be in docks for repairs.
Dave54 London, London, United Kingdom, 1 day ago
Better than our royal navy aircraft carriers...in dry dock 100% of the time...