KEY POINTS

  • The PLA Navy of China launched a flotilla led by the Liaoning aircraft carrier and additional destroyers 
  • The intent was to prove that China has controlled and contained the novel coronavirus 
  • The flotilla sailed through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa and to the south

When the People's Liberation Army Navy of China launched a flotilla into the Pacific Ocean on Saturday night (April 13), the military group sent an important message: Chinese defense forces have succeeded in containing the coronavirus. The fleet sailed through a Pacific power vacuum created as four U.S. aircraft carriers are crippled by the spread of the coronavirus among their crew.. 

The fleet was lead by the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, and passed straight through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa. The flotilla was comprised of two additional destroyers armed with guided missiles, two guided-missile frigates, and an auxiliary ship, according to Chinese publication Global Times. However, while multiple third-party tabloids reported the movement, the PLA at that time had not gone on record to confirm deployment. 

But this is all in a bid by Chinese military strategists, according to the Global Times, to prove that the country has taken great strides to curb the impact of the global COVID-19 epidemic that other countries have been dealing with on a much larger scale. The report, as indicated by China Arms Control and Disarmament Association senior adviser Xu Guangyu, indicated that China has "done a great job" in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. 

The PLA navy has not shared any reports that its own personnel had been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, going so far as to deny rumors that some crew members had been infected. This report remains unverified at this point in time. 

Liaoning aircraft carrier in South China Sea Representational image Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

According to initial reports, the Liaoning was working to complete its mission heading through the Miyako Strait and in a southerly direction (by way of the Japanese Ministry of Defense) without any real complications. The mission comes as four U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have been dealing with crippling cases of coronavirus, including the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Carl Vinson, and the USS Nimitz. 

The U.S. military has spoken out in response to these comments, especially as the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been pelted with over 500 cases among its 4,000 crew members. It's currently docked in Guam, and is the hardest hit out of the several American carriers currently deployed. Whatever the PLA navy's endgame with conducting these exercises is unclear right now, but it does seem as though the country has gone a long way to ensure its defense forces are healthy and unaffected -- or at least project such a picture.