BEIJING – A group of Chinese warships led by its sole aircraft carrier is testing weapons and equipment in exercises this week in the South China Sea that are going to plan, China’s foreign ministry said Wednesday.
Exercises by the ships, in particular the aircraft carrier Liaoning, since last month have unnerved China’s neighbors, especially at a time of heightened strain with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, and given long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
China says the Soviet-built Liaoning and the other ships conduct routine exercises that comply with international law.
“The Liaoning aircraft carrier group in the South China Sea is carrying out scientific research and training, in accordance with plans,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing.
“The purpose is to test the performance of weapons and equipment,” he said.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy said on its official microblog this week that the aircraft carrier conducted drills in the South China Sea with its fighter jets and helicopters.
U.S. warships have also been conducting what they call “freedom of navigation” patrols through the South China Sea over the past year as concern grows about Chinese construction of airstrips and docks on disputed reefs and islands.
The group of warships sailed through waters south of Japan and then rounded east and south of Taiwan late last month on its way to the south China province of Hainan.
Taiwan’s defense minister warned at the time that “the threat of our enemies is growing day by day.
Full article: China says carrier testing weapons, engaged in ‘scientific research’ in South China Sea (The Japan Times)