TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese experts are describing the use of a photo of a U.S. Navy (USN) captain casually watching a Chinese aircraft carrier as an example of "cognitive warfare."
As carrier groups led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and Liaoning shadow each other, the USN on Sunday (April 11) released a photo showing the commander of the U.S. destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), Robert Briggs, casually sitting back with his feet propped up as he watches the Chinese carrier. Briggs is joined by Executive Officer Richard Slye, as the two monitor the Liaoning from just a few thousand meters away.
Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a senior analyst at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, was cited by CNA as saying the U.S. military released the photo of the "relaxed" monitoring of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warship in order to underline the idea that the USN is not concerned about the combat effectiveness of the carrier.
Su pointed out that in carrier battle groups the mothership should have friendly frigates flanking it on either side. However, in this case, there was nothing between the Liaoning and the Mustin, thus exposing the carrier to direct attack.
China's Liaoning aircraft carrier, as seen from USS Mustin. (Navy.mil photo)
The analyst concluded this indicates the combat capabilities of the Liaoning are still limited. He said that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will need to build up its forces further to be on a par with the USN.
Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a former captain of the Navy corvette Xinjiang was cited by SCMP as saying the casual manner in which Briggs and Slye watch the Liaoning shows they "take their PLA counterparts lightly." Lu suggested the photo was staged and is a form of "cognitive warfare" meant to show the U.S. does not consider the PLA to be an "immediate threat."
A researcher at the Beijing-based Yuan Wang think tank conceded to the newspaper that there is still a "big gap between the US and Chinese aircraft carrier strike groups." Meanwhile, Kanwa Defence Review editor-in-chief Andrei Chang asserted the photo was meant to serve as a "warning to the PLA" that the U.S. was fully aware of the carrier group's movements.