China’s military confirmed Tuesday that the country’s first aircraft carrier and its naval formation have held takeoff and landing drills in the South China Sea.
Earlier this month, the Liaoning aircraft carrier and accompanying warships set sail for the Western Pacific, passing through the disputed sea — prompting Japan and Taiwan to announce that they were monitoring its activities.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua cited a military source as saying Tuesday that J-15 fighter jets and several ship-borne helicopters were involved in the “cross-sea area” training exercise.
The source did not provide additional details about the drills and aircraft involved, but said the exercise provided “important experience in the build-up of combat capability” of the aircraft carrier formation.
In recent weeks, the Liaoning had conducted training — including its first live-fire exercise earlier this month — in the Yellow Sea, the Bohai Sea and East China Sea.
The Liaoning is a refitted Russian-made carrier delivered from Ukraine to China’s People’s Liberation Army in September 2012.
In January, the national defense ministry announced that China is designing and building its second aircraft carrier, a 50,000-ton carrier that would be entirely of independent Chinese design and powered conventionally rather than by nuclear energy.
China has been modernizing its naval capacity at a time when the United States and its allies — including Japan — are expressing alarm at its maritime expansion, which they suspect is aimed at extending its military reach.