Chinese aircraft carrier sails past Taiwan as US Navy struggles with coronavirus

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A Chinese aircraft carrier sailed past Taiwan over the weekend in a show of strength as the U.S. Navy struggles with coronavirus.

Japan’s ministry of defense said Monday that the aircraft carrier Liaoning and its strike group, including five warships, passed through the 155-mile wide Miyako Strait between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako on Saturday, before turning south and passing east of Taiwan on Sunday. The strait is an international waterway.

Taiwan’s navy also sent ships to monitor the strike group as it passed on Sunday, according to Taiwan’s ministry of defense, per the South China Morning Post.

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“We have conducted reconnaissance and monitoring over the sea and air space around Taiwan,” ministry spokesman Shih Shun-wen said.

The Liaoning, one of China’s two current aircraft carriers, is currently the only one in the Western Pacific. The U.S. carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan are both in port.

The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (file picture)

The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (file picture) (Reuters)

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, meanwhile claimed that the deployment of the Lioaning illustrated China’s successful response to coronavirus as the U.S. Navy struggles.

In an op-ed for the Global Times, Hu Bo, directors of Peking University Center for Maritime Studies, wrote: “As the most powerful military force in the world, with the highest level of combat readiness, the U.S. military’s failure to contain the virus has been disappointing.

“There are [a] number of reasons for this, such as the large number of personnel deployed overseas, poor military-political relations, and the absence preparedness. The crux of the problem, however, lies in the fact that the US military is facing a dilemma that is impossible to deal with. The US military and intelligence system realized early on the severity of the epidemic and took control measures, while repeatedly warning the White House and the Pentagon.”

The Roosevelt, in particular, has been devastated by a coronavirus outbreak. A U.S. sailor who was admitted to the ICU at a Navy hospital in Guam after contracting the pathogen has died, Navy officials said Monday.

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As of Sunday, 585 sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Navy. Nearly 4,000 sailors have been moved ashore in Guam, leaving roughly 800 to keep watch over two nuclear reactors, jets, missiles and bombs on board. The positive cases count for more than half of the total number of sailors who have tested positive for coronavirus across the Navy.

The carrier has also been dealing with the fallout of the dismissal of its commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of duty after writing a memo pleading for help from the Navy which subsequently was published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Reagan, meanwhile, is undergoing maintenance at its homeport of Yokosuka Naval Base and is preparing for deployment, according to Stars and Stripes. Its sailors are undergoing 14 days of isolation prior to departing, according to its official Facebook page.

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In this April 7, 2020, photo released by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt move ready to eat meals for sailors who have tested negative for COVID-19 and are being taken to local hotels in an effort to implement social distancing at Naval Base Guam. 

In this April 7, 2020, photo released by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt move ready to eat meals for sailors who have tested negative for COVID-19 and are being taken to local hotels in an effort to implement social distancing at Naval Base Guam.  (Mass Communication Specialist Julio Rivera/U.S. Navy via AP)

“Once 14 days are complete, every sailor will provide a nasal swab sample that will be processed and returned. This process will take an additional 2-3 days before our COVID-free team embarks on Reagan,” a post on the page read.

Taiwan is located about 80 miles off China’s coast but has declared itself an independent nation for over 70 years. China, however, has refused to acknowledge Taiwan’s sovereignty and consistently fights to bring them back under Beijing’s control.

Tensions between China and Taiwan are particularly fraught in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, and both of their relationships with the World Health Organization are in the spotlight.

Taiwan is accusing WHO of downplaying the severity and spread of the coronavirus in an attempt to pander to China.

On Monday, they released the contents of a December email inquiring about the person to person spread of the virus, but claim it was ignored by the WHO.

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WHO ignored warnings from Taiwan and continued to reiterate China’s false talking points — that “there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the novel pathogen even as late as Jan 14.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for China’s Navy in recent days. Last week, black smoke was seen billowing from one of its new assault carriers in Shanghai.