China Masses Four Type 055 Cruisers as First US Carrier Group Enters Sea of Japan in Five Years

© Sputnik ScreenshotThe Type 055 cruiser Lhasa of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)
The Type 055 cruiser Lhasa of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.04.2022
Beijing has brought together four of its largest and most advanced warships not far from where the US and Japan are engaged in drills.
In a satellite photo taken on April 11, military analysts have spotted four Type 055 guided-missile destroyers in the Yellow Sea, just off the coast of Yuchi Naval Base in China’s Shandong Province.
The massive warships weigh in at 13,000 tons of displacement when fully loaded, making them some of the largest non-carrier warships in service. Only the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyers and the Russian Navy’s Kirov-class battlecruisers are larger.
All eight of the Type 055s ordered by the People’s Liberation Army Navy have been completed, but only six have entered service thus far: Nanchang, Lhasa, Dalian, Anshan, Yanan, and Wuxi, the lattermost of which was commissioned less than a month ago. The other two, reportedly named Zunyi and Xianyang, are still fitting out.
The Type 055s can perform a variety of roles, including submarine hunting, anti-air defense, and surface bombardment. They are expected to serve as fleet escorts for the PLAN’s burgeoning selection of aircraft carriers, the third of which is nearing completion in a Shanghai shipyard.
However, according to Zhou Chenming, a researcher at Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank in Beijing, the warships aren’t exactly putting on a show of strength or rehearsing any kind of operations at sea.
“There is not any formal military exercise for the four ships, because a formal naval flotilla should be composed of different types of warships,” Zhou told the South China Morning Post.
However, two of the warships, Lhasa and Nanchang, have engaged in live-fire drills in the Yellow Sea in the last month. With Wuxi’s recent commissioning in nearby Qingdao, it could be a moment of simple serendipity for them to come together as they have.
That said, the mysterious massing has happened during and not far from large military drills by a US Navy carrier battle group and their Japanese allies.
On Tuesday, the USS Abraham Lincoln and its battle group entered the Sea of Japan, marking the first time in five years that a US warship has done so, according to UPI. The waterway separates Japan from Russia and the Korean Peninsula, and has been the site of numerous missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The Lincoln was joined by the Japanese vessel Kongo, lead ship in her class of guided-missile destroyers, as well as numerous Japanese F-2 fighter jets.
The drills are in response to the most recent tests of several intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with the potential to hit the continental United States. Prior to the recent tests, the DPRK had not fired an ICBM since demonstrating they had an operational weapon in 2017. Such long-range weapons violate United Nations resolutions passed over fears that Pyongyang’s weapons programs could destabilize the region.
US officials have said they expect another launch on Friday, which is the birthday of DPRK founder Kim Il-Sung.
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