Jan 2, 2014
China's first aircraft carrier completes South China Sea drills
Last month's drills off the coast of Hainan Island marked not only the first time China has sent a carrier into the South China Sea but the first time it has maneuvered with the kind of strike group of escort ships U.S. carriers deploy.
The aircraft carrier Liaoning carried out more than 100 tests, including of its combat systems, and has now docked at port in the northern city of Qingdao
The carrier was escorted by two destroyers and two frigates, and aircraft and submarines also participated in the drills.
Carrier strike groups sit at the core of China's naval ambitions and successfully operating the 60,000-tonne Liaoning is the first step in what state media and some military experts believe will be the deployment of locally built carriers by 2020.
Friction over the South China Sea has surged as China uses its growing naval might to assert a vast claim over the oil-and-gas-rich area, raising fears of a clash between it and other countries in the region, including the Philippines and Vietnam.
The USS Cowpens narrowly avoided colliding with a Chinese warship escorting the Liaoning while operating in international waters on December 5, the U.S. Navy has said.
Xinhua said the Cowpens was "warned" by the carrier task force, adding the U.S. vessel was "intentionally" putting the Liaoning under surveillance.