Dec 17, 2016
China live-fires aircraft carrier group amid Taiwan tensions with US
China’s first and only aircraft carrier led large-scale exercises in the Bohai Sea, the navy of the People’s Liberation Army announced late on Thursday.
The drills involved dozens of ships and aircraft in the carrier group and more than 10 air-to-air, anti-ship and air defence missiles were tested, it said.
The group also performed reconnaissance exercises, tests of early warning systems, aerial interception and missile defence.
The goal of the exercises was to “test the performance of weapons and the training level of the team”, the statement said.
China’s national broadcaster CCTV showed footage of J-15 fighter jets taking off from the carrier and firing missiles.
The drills come as a heated war of words intensifies between Beijing and the US president-elect, Donald Trump, who broke convention by speaking directly to the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and even suggested Washington could jettison the decades-old “One China policy” – a diplomatic compromise allowing the US to do business with both China and Taiwan while only recognising Beijing.
Since Trump’s and Tsai’s phone call, China has sent military aircraft close to Japanese territory near the Miyako Strait and reportedly sent a bomber to circumnavigate disputed territory in the resource-rich South China Sea – flights its air force has described as “routine”.
The US Pacific commander said on Wednesday that the US would keep challenging China’s “assertive, aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea” despite Beijing’s rapid development of artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.
Satellite images published this week by a US thinktank showed structures on Chinese-built artificial islands that appeared to be large anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems (CIWS) designed to take out incoming missiles and enemy aircraft, the thinktank said.
China’s defence ministry said the construction was mostly for civilian use and necessary military installations were for self-defence.
Beijing is seeking to build a “blue water” navy capable of operating in distant seas and has embarked on an extensive project to modernise its two million-strong military, the world’s largest.
The Liaoning is a secondhand Soviet ship built more than 25 years ago. It was commissioned in 2012 after extensive refits.
In December 2015 China’s defence ministry announced the country was building a second aircraft carrier based entirely on domestic designs.