An advanced Chinese destroyer circled Japan with escorts in its first far-sea exercises last week, in the wake of Russian naval forces on a similar mission, according to the Japanese Defence Ministry. The Type 055 guided-missile destroyer Lhasa , together with Type 052D guided-missile destroyer Chengdu and Type 903A supply ship Dongpinghu, completed an 18-day trip around Japan’s main islands on Wednesday under the watch of Japanese Self-Defence Forces, the Japanese Joint Staff said on Thursday. Heading north, the Lhasa sailed through the Tsushima Strait between Japan and the Korean peninsula from June 12 and travelled northeast in the Japan Sea, crossed the Soya Strait between Sakhalin and Hokkaido on June 16 and 17. The destroyer then headed south in the Pacific before turning westward on June 21 through the Izu Islands and returned to the East China Sea through the Miyako Strait in the Okinawa Islands on June 29. The Chengdu and Dongpinghu escorted the Lhasa for most of the journey, but the Dongpinghu did not go through the Soya Strait, instead taking a shorter route through the Tsugaru Strait between Hokkaido and Honshu. Japan sent frigates and surveillance aircraft to monitor the Chinese fleet. A few days earlier, a group of Russia navy warships headed by the Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Panteleyev took a similar route from the Pacific between June 15 and 21, according to the Japanese ministry. The Lhasa is the second of the powerful Type 055 destroyers to go into service in the People’s Liberation Army Navy. It was commissioned by the North Sea Fleet in March 2021 and reported to be “combat ready” in January. In 2021, the first of the destroyers, the Nanchang, took part in a drill in the Sea of Japan and a patrol around Japan with the Russian navy. The Type 055 is regarded as the second most powerful destroyer after the US Navy’s DDG-1000, or Zumwalt-class stealth ship. While the Zumwalt is focused on land attacks, the Type 055 with 112 vertical launch missile cells is more of a multi-role warship with balanced air-defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons. At more than 180 metres (590 feet) long and 20 metres wide and displacement of 12,000 tonnes, the Type 055 is designed to guard Chinese aircraft carriers as well as Type 075 amphibious assault ships. In a shipbuilding spree that has made the PLA Navy the world’s biggest by number of vessels, China launched eight Type 055 destroyers between 2017 and 2020. It has also built three Type 075 amphibious landing docks and launched its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, in June . In addition to the Nanchang and Lhasa, both under the Northern Theatre Command Navy, or North Sea Fleet, a third Type 055, the Dalian, entered service in April last year and was assigned to the Southern Theatre Command Navy, or South Sea Fleet. Two others, the Anshan and Wuxi, were deployed to the North Sea Fleet a year later.