Chinese Navy sails through island chain in Pacific
Beijing: The Chinese Navy has claimed to have fulfilled a long-held dream of gaining access to the Pacific Ocean after its vessels for the first time sailed though major East Asian archipelagos closely guarded by the US and Japan.
"The Chinese navy has the capability to cut the first island chain into several pieces," said Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the PLA`s Academy of Military Science.
"Now the chain is fragmented," Du told state-run China Daily.
The `first island chain` refers to the first major archipelagos off the East Asian continental mainland, including the Japanese archipelago, Ryukyu Islands, China`s Taiwan and the northern Philippines.
In the 1950s, the US came to regard the chain as an important barrier to contain China and other communist countries, the report said, projecting the achievement as a major breakthrough coinciding with the 86th anniversary of the 2.3 million-strong People`s Liberation Army, the world`s largest standing army, celebrated yesterday, the report said.
The US and allied countries installed a strong military presence and advanced weapons at bases along the line,it said.
Five Chinese warships finished the historic trip four days ago, during which the Chinese navy for the first time entered the Pacific through the Soya Strait, known in Russia as La Perouse Strait, between the Russian island of Sakhalin and the Japanese island of Hokkaido, the report said.
The Chinese vessels passed through the strait to train in the West Pacific after a joint naval drill with Russia in the Japanese Sea.
It was the first time the Chinese navy conducted high-sea training right after a major drill, with no rest, it said.
On July 25, the ships crossed the Miyako Strait between Japan`s Miyako and Okinawa islands on their return voyage to Qingdao, headquarters of the North China Sea Fleet.
The move marks the first trip by the Chinese navy circumnavigating the Japanese archipelago.
Japan sent frigates and aircraft to monitor the Chinese fleet at a short distance, the report said.
"So far, counting from the south to the north, the navy has crossed the first island chain through Bashi Channel, Miyako Strait, Osumi Strait, Tsugaru Strait, and now Soya Strait," said Du.
"It has crossed all the strongest parts on the chain," he said, adding that the repeated passages show that the PLA navy is now capable of sending and supporting its warships to navigate and fight in channels far from the continent.
Li Li, a researcher at the PLA`s National Defence University, said going through the Soya Strait means much more than giving China new access to the Pacific.
President Xi Jinping this week discussed a roadmap for China to become a maritime power at a top level meeting of the ruling Communist Party saying that China will protect its maritime interests and be fully prepared for the complex issues in the region, it said.
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