The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said on Sunday that the Chinese Navy recently organized the Shandong aircraft carrier task group to carry out routine exercises in waters in the South China Sea.
The exercises were part of the Chinese Navy’s annual work plan, it said.
The domestically-built Shandong carrier is China’s second aircraft carrier, which entered service in 2019 almost immediately after the country’s first and older carrier, the Liaoning, left the region.
“It is completely legitimate and beneficial in improving the country’s ability to uphold national sovereignty and security,” senior Captain Gao Xiucheng, a spokesperson from the PLA Navy, said in a statement on Sunday.
Gao said China hopes the world will see the drills from an objective and rational viewpoint. He said the Chinese Navy will continue conducting such exercises according to its schedule.
China’s Navy announced last month similar drills will come more regularly amid escalating tensions with the island of Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), which Beijing sees as its sovereign territory.
China has repeatedly complained about US Navy ships sailing in close proximity to Chinese islands in the South China Sea, where neighboring countries have overlapping territorial claims with China.
The US sides with China’s opponents in the territorial dispute and regularly dispatches warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to conduct what it calls “freedom of navigation” patrols.
China views the frequent presence of US warships and warplanes near Chinese territories in the disputed waters as the cause of instability and tensions in the region.