“China’s best warships will be deployed in the South Sea Fleet as a response to the US military activities, although both sides will carefully avoid any friction,” Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military commentator, said. “It a demonstration of muscle.”
The US has stepped up military deployment in the region. Last month, US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter flew to the USS John C. Stennis for a two-hour visit as it sailed 70 miles west of the Philippines island of Luzon.
Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said more drills were likely. “New ships need to be tested in real-sea experience, and a combat group needs to practise command, coordination and teamwork,” Xu said.
There was room for speculation China was preparing an aircraft carrier combat group, Xu said, as the ships were a standard combination for escorting a carrier.
The PLA Navy had been practising operations with its first carrier, the Liaoning, and work on the main body of a second carrier was expected to be complete this year, Kanwa Asian Defense reported.
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