Drill comes as tensions with US escalate over the South China Sea
First time that details of the drills have been broadcast to the public
China’s only aircraft carrier group has conducted live-fire drills as tensions with neighboring Asian countries and the US escalate over the South China Sea.
The drills – carried out in the Bohai Sea close to South Korea – involved several airplanes and destroyers, according to a Chinese naval statement released Thursday.
The China Daily, a state-run English-language newspaper, said it was the first time footage of the Liaoning aircraft carrier carrying out live-fire exercises had been shown to the public.
The group performed reconnaissance exercises, tests of early-warning systems, aerial interception and anti-missile exercises. More than 10 air-to-air, ship-to-air, and air missiles were also launched.
The footage of the military drills, showing J-15 fighter jets launching from the carrier and firing missiles, was broadcast by Chinese state media Thursday.
Beijing bought the Liaoning from Ukraine in 1998, spent years refurbishing it and put it into service in 2012.
China says it’s building a new homegrown aircraft carrier as it seeks to expand its military clout.
Mounting tension over the South China Sea
Beijing’s latest show of military force comes as new satellite imagery, released by a US think tank, indicates that China has installed weapon systems on all seven artificial islands that it has built on the contested waters of the South China Sea.
The images revealed anti-aircraft guns and other weapons systems that could protect against cruise missiles sitting in hexagonal structures on the islands.
The details of Friday’s live-fire drills and the buildup of weaponry will likely unnerve China’s neighbors and rattle ties with the US, where President-elect Donald Trump has shown himself increasingly willing to confront and challenge Beijing over several issues.
China’s Defense Ministry has stated previously that their military installations are proper and lawful, and mainly for self-defense.
“If others are flexing their military muscles at your doorstep, are you not even supposed to have a slingshot in hand just in case?” a statement said.
CNN’s Katie Hunt contributed to this report from Hong Kong.