Up to six Chinese warships have been deployed to the Middle East over the past week, South China Morning Post reported.
The 44th Naval Escort Task Force has been engaged in standard operations in the region since May, partaking in a multi-day visit to Oman last week, which included a joint naval exercise with the Omani Navy, as per statements from the Chinese defense ministry.
On Saturday, after their visit, the task force departed from the capital, Muscat on October 14, heading towards an undisclosed destination, as per state media.
The visit saw an engagement between the Chinese and Omani military officials, with a series of visits to military institutions and a friendly basketball match organized amidst the formal interactions, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
Hailing from the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre, the task force is composed of the Zibo, a Type 052D guided-missile destroyer, the frigate Jingzhou, and the integrated supply ship Qiandaohu.
Earlier this month, the command was handed over to the 45th Naval Escort Task Force from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA’s) Northern Theatre command, which comprises another Type 052 destroyer, the Urumqi; the frigate Linyi and supply ship Dongpinghu.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III announced a series of actions aimed at bolstering the United States’ military presence in the Middle East.
Secretary Austin outlined three major steps to strengthen the U.S. military’s position in the Middle East.
Read the statement below:
First, I redirected the movement of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Central Command area of responsibility. This carrier strike group is in addition to the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which is currently operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. It will further increase our force posture and strengthen our capabilities and ability to respond to a range of contingencies.
I have also activated the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery as well as additional Patriot battalions to locations throughout the region to increase force protection for U.S. forces.
Finally, I have placed an additional number of forces on prepare to deploy orders as part of prudent contingency planning, to increase their readiness and ability to quickly respond as required.