Chinese carrier passes between Okinawa islands

Japan's Defense Ministry said a Chinese aircraft carrier has sailed through waters between two islands in Okinawa Prefecture, southwestern Japan. This is the first confirmed passage through the area by a Chinese carrier since last April.

The ministry said the Maritime Self-Defense Force confirmed that the Liaoning, accompanied by five other vessels, made the transit from Saturday to Sunday.

It said the ships entered from the East China Sea, and passed between Okinawa's main island and Miyakojima Island, before entering the Pacific Ocean.

The ministry said the vessels did not violate Japanese territorial waters, and that no aircraft took off or landed on the carrier.

This is the sixth time that a Chinese carrier has been confirmed to sail through the waters between the two islands.

The five ships accompanying the carrier included a replenishment vessel, and a Renhai-Class missile destroyer. The state-of-the-art destroyer was found to have navigated in waters near Japan for the first time last month.

Ministry sources said the carrier group may remain at sea for some time to conduct a drill.

The ministry is analyzing the purpose of the navigation. It is also maintaining its close surveillance, citing the Chinese military's increased activity in open seas.