Amid escalating tensions in Asia, China's lone aircraft carrier conducted military exercises Friday along with fighter jets after setting sail from the coastal city of Qingdao in east China, officials from the People's Liberation Army Navy said. Military officials declined to state where the exercises where taking place, but called the drills routine, Reuters reported.
The exercises are part of China's ongoing efforts to develop a navy capable of defending its economy, the world's second largest, and its territorial positions amid disputes over who controls the South China and East China seas. China wants its aircraft carrier and fighter jets, including the Shenyang J-15, to be war ready, the Chinese navy has said.
China claims most of the South China Sea, but the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims. China has also disputed sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea with Japan. Critics claim the territorial disputes are also aimed at minimizing U.S. military dominance in the region.
"China claims that its rise is intended to be peaceful,’’ defense analyst Andrew Krepinevich wrote recently for Foreign Affairs magazine, ‘‘but its actions tell a different story: that of a revisionist power seeking to dominate the western Pacific.’’
China's Foreign Ministry said Friday it has repeatedly warned Japan not to undermine improving relations between the two Asian rivals by criticizing its construction in the South China Sea region, Reuters reported. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he agreed with Philippine President Benigno Aquino and would oppose China's attempts to claim land in the South China Sea. China recently built artificial islands in areas over which the Philippines and other countries have rival claims.
The Liaoning aircraft carrier is a Soviet-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China. It is equipped with multiple warheads, CNN reported.
The Chinese government has said it hopes it will be able to build more aircraft carriers by 2020. Liaoning has conducted more than 100 scientific-research tests, as well as landing and takeoff exercises, the navy said.