The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning is set to take part in its first blue water military exercises in the West Pacific, local media reports stated, citing the military. Liaoning will be part of a wider national naval formation being sent to the region.
“Liaoning will conduct military drills in the West Pacific,” said People’s Liberation Army Navy spokesperson Liang Yang on Saturday, China’s state-run Global Times reported.
It is believed to be the first time the vessel participates in open sea training.
On Saturday, the aircraft carrier continued ongoing Naval drills in the Yellow Sea, where it was supported by a formation of destroyers and frigates. The drills also involved China’s self-made J-15 fighter, which was assigned to Liaoning.
On Friday, China’s defense ministry announced that the aircraft carrier will also conduct scheduled cross-sea training and tests. According to Global Times, Liaoning will conduct further drills in other parts of China’s maritime area which includes the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
The ship is an Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier which was originally launched for the Soviet Union in 1988. China obtained the incomplete vessel from Ukraine ten years later and commissioned the aircraft carrier in 2012.
The potential deployment of the aircraft to the West pacific would occur amid rising tensions between the US and China. Early in December, US President–elect Donald Trump received a congratulatory phone call from the President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen. The move caused quite a stir in China, with the country’s Foreign Ministry lodging an official complaint since Beijing views the island as its territory.
Earlier Trump also questioned the decades-long “One China” policy perceived by Washington. “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘One China’ policy, unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump said. In response, China’s ambassador warned the US said that his country would not tolerate any review of its “political foundation.”
The area of the South China Sea, where Liaoning is currently operating, has been one reason behind numerous tensions between the US and China, with both sides accusing each other of sabre rattling and a military build-up. Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea as its territory, causing strong opposition from regional neighbors, including Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. One of the heaviest ongoing disputes is over the Spratly islands, where China has tried to prevent US Navy patrols, which Washington says are legitimate due to the Freedom of Navigation act.