China has sent its Shandong aircraft carrier for military training in the South China Sea and plans to continue similar exercises, the state-owned Global Times said.
The training conducted by the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Shandong aircraft carrier task group is “a routine exercise,” the paper said on Twitter, citing a PLA Navy spokesperson. It didn’t give exact timings for the exercises.
“We hope the outside world can view it objectively and rationally,” the PLA spokesperson was cited as saying in the tweet.
The military exercises come weeks after the US and the Philippines voiced concerns about the presence of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels near a disputed reef in the South China Sea. China said those ships were just “sheltering from the wind.”
China also deployed its first advanced amphibious assault ship and two other new vessels at a naval port in the southern Chinese province of Hainan last month. The buildup, combined with moves to fortify its South China Sea hold, has raised fears that it could look to deny the U.S. military access to waters off China’s coastline.
Beijing’s latest actions raise questions about the future of US-China ties, which have remained tense months into the Biden administration. Apart from spats over the South China Sea, the US administration has continued to criticise Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.
Biden has maintained his predecessor’s tough rhetoric toward the US’s main rival and has declined to lift the tariffs Donald Trump had imposed. Early meetings with the leaders of India, Japan, and South Korea also suggest the US administration is shoring up alliances in the Indo-Pacific to counter Beijing.
Taiwan is a flash point as Chinese fighter jets repeatedly entered Taiwan’s air defense zone in April. Biden sent an unofficial US delegation last month to Taipei as a show of support.