by Adam Jourdan (Reuters) – Chinese naval forces have passed through waters south of Taiwan and carried out military exercises in the western Pacific, the latest in a series of military drills that self-ruled Taiwan has criticized as amounting to “intimidation”.
J-15 fighters took off from China’s sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on Friday for training in the area to the east of the Bashi Channel, which runs between Taiwan and the Philippines, the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army reported on Saturday.
Chinese destroyers carried out offensive and defensive drills to test their capabilities, the PLA Daily said.
The Ministry of Defence also carried pictures of the exercises on its website on Saturday.
China has been ramping up military displays in the area over the last week.
On Wednesday, the navy carried out live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait in what state media said was a direct response to “provocations” by Taiwan.
Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, accused China of “saber rattling”, and carried out its own live-fire exercises on Tuesday on two Taiwan islands close to China.
On Thursday, Chinese bombers flew around Taiwan in what the air force called a “sacred mission”.
Taiwan’s China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said China’s exercises, including the flight by the bombers, amounted to “military intimidation”.
Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential flashpoint. China has ramped up military exercises around the island over the past year.
The Chinese maneuvers come at a time of heightened tension between Beijing and Taipei and follow strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping last month against Taiwan separatism.
Xi presided over the navy’s largest-ever military display this month in the South China Sea, which involved 76 fighter jets and a flotilla of 48 warships and submarines.
China’s military activities and growing assertiveness has worried its neighbors as well as the United States, whose Pacific command called China a “disruptive force” in January.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan, Reuters