China said on Monday, (2 January) that the country’s sole aircraft carrier, Liaoning, carried out drills in South China Sea.
According to the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the carrier’s J-15 fighter jets conducted flight exercises in “complex sea conditions”. It also added that the carrier ran helicopter exercises but did not give a precise location.
Apart from China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in South China Sea.
The confirmation from the Chinese navy comes just days after Taiwan said that the Liaoning and five accompanying warships had sailed around 90 nautical miles south of Taiwan and later docked at China’s Hainan island base. China described the drills as a routine exercise.
The military exercise in the region comes amid renewed tensions between China and Taiwan after US President-elect Donald Trump made a phone call to Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen. The call reportedly ticked off Beijing as United States maintains One China policy, which acknowledges Taiwan as a part of China.
China reportedly carried out its first live-fire drills using the aircraft carrier near Korea last month. On 25 December, it announced that Liaoning and other fleets would conduct routine exercises in the Western Pacific.
According to Reuters, the flotilla passed through the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako. One of Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force ships and a P3C patrol aircraft had reportedly detected six Chinese navy vessels travelling through this passage.
The East Asian superpower has recently been rattled by US naval patrols near islands in South China Sea. A Chinese navy ship recently captured a US underwater drone in South China Sea last month but later returned it.