Free rein for China’s navy as virus halts US ships

China’s navy has been flexing its muscles by conducting drills and sending its two aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Strait, into the South China Sea and the Pacific as the US and Taiwanese navies struggle with coronavirus outbreaks aboard their ships.

The Liaoning and Shandong, China’s two aircraft carriers, were both on active deployment during most of March and April, staging drills and making voyages that covered staggering distances across the nation’s claimed territorial waters and the high seas.

The Liaoning, the first carrier in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), along with several escort ships in its convoy, did not try to elude the glare of the Taiwanese military and media when it sailed back-and-forth along the Taiwan Strait and off the island’s Pacific coast last month.

The Liaoning flotilla comprised at least two guided-missile destroyers, two frigates and a supply ship and sailed through the Taiwan Strait twice, according to the defense ministries of Taiwan and Japan. It also passed through the Bashi Channel, a waterway to the south of Taiwan.

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