Sankei Shimbun learned on Nov. 24 that two Chinese Navy landing ships had passed through the waters between Yonaguni Island, Okinawa Prefecture, and Taiwan in mid-November 2021 and conducted exercises based on a scenario where a landing operation is conducted off the eastern coast of Taiwan, according to Japanese and Taiwanese defense officials. It is extremely unusual to observe Chinese Navy landing ships around the Nansei Islands, and Japanese and Taiwanese defense authorities are analyzing the action, which heightens tensions as it is based on the scenario of an armed invasion of Taiwan.
The two ships were Type 071 landing platform docks (LPD), and are said to belong to the East Sea Fleet (headquartered in Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province), which is in responsible for the East China Sea and the waters around Taiwan. The ships traveled south between Taiwan and Yonaguni around Nov. 14 and advanced to the waters off Hualien in the eastern part of Taiwan. They stayed in the area for a certain period of time. Details of the exercise are unknown. The Ground Self-Defense Force Coastal Observation Unit on Yonaguni Island is monitoring the surrounding sea and airspace. The Joint Staff Office of the Ministry of Defense has not announced the movements of the two ships.
A Taiwanese official says that “Chinese troops have recently added Japan’s Nansei Islands as an attack target option.” The official notes that this was the first time that landing ships had formed a “(landing) attack formation.” In May 2012, the Ministry of Defense confirmed and announced that a landing ship of the same type had been seen on the Pacific Ocean, but that ship was more than 600 kilometers southwest of the main island of Okinawa.
The official also pointed out that the Chinese Marine Corps is training to operate anti-aircraft and anti-ship firepower after landing and occupying an island. Since the actions of the landing ships could be applied to the Nansei Islands, the official warns that “Japan should also take note.” (Abridged)