Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, missile destroyers in East China Sea, says Japan

The Maritime Self-Defense Force is closely monitoring the situation for further actions.

Chinese coast guard ships sail near disputed East China Sea isles, second time in a week
China Coast Guard vessel No. 31239 sails in the East China Sea near the disputed isles known as Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China Reuters

Japan's Defense Ministry said on Sunday that a Japanese defense destroyer spotted the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier in the central part of the East China Sea for the first time on Saturday.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) destroyer spotted the fleet, including seven other vessels, at around 4 pm as it was cruising eastward. There were three guided-missile destroyers, three frigates and one supply ship in the fleet. However, the ministry did not disclose any other details about the movement of the fleet.

The MSDF is closely monitoring the situation as there are possibilities of the Chinese naval vessels entering waters near Japan and proceed to the western Pacific Ocean. This is believed to be the first time for a Chinese aircraft carrier to sail to the Pacific.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Xinhua, the official state news agency reported that a naval formation including the Liaoning headed for the western Pacific for an open-sea training exercise on the same day.

In 1998, China purchased a Soviet-built hulk from Ukraine that was later converted into the Liaoning. It was commissioned in September 2012 as China's first aircraft carrier, after undergoing an extensive refitting in Dalian in northeastern part of the nation.