China’s 1st air­craft car­rier heads for West­ern Pa­cific

Ex­er­cise could ig­nite re­newed ten­sion over self-ruled Tai­wan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING: China’s first air­craft car­rier will carry out drills in the West­ern Pa­cific, in what the navy called part of rou­tine ex­er­cises, amid re­newed ten­sion over self-ruled Tai­wan that Bei­jing claims as its own. The navy said in a state­ment late yes­ter­day the Liaon­ing, along with its ac­com­pa­ny­ing fleet, would con­duct “ex­er­cises far out at sea”, with­out giv­ing de­tails of the lo­ca­tion or route, in what is likely its first blue-wa­ter drill far from home wa­ters. State me­dia said yes­ter­day that it is the first time that the Liaon­ing, which was com­mis­sioned by the Chi­nese navy in 2012, has headed to “dis­tant sea wa­ters.” The West­ern Pa­cific re­gion stretches from China to New Zealand and en­com­passes coun­tries in the Pa­cific, Ocea­nia and parts of Asia.

The state­ment said a navy for­ma­tion in­clud­ing the Liaon­ing set off Satur­day for train­ing in the West­ern Pa­cific, with­out elab­o­rat­ing on the lo­ca­tion, as part of an an­nual train­ing plan.

The ex­er­cise takes place at a time of ten­sion be­tween China and the United States, the Pa­cific Ocean’s dom­i­nant power, over the sen­si­tive is­sue of Tai­wan, a self-gov­ern­ing is­land that Bei­jing claims as its ter­ri­tory.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump took a con­grat­u­la­tory Dec 2 phone call with Tai­wanese Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen, mark­ing the first time an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent or pres­i­den­t­elect has pub­licly spo­ken to Tai­wan’s leader since Wash­ing­ton broke of its for­mal diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship with Tai­wan in 1979. To out­rage in Bei­jing, Trump later sug­gested he could reeval­u­ate US pol­icy on Tai­wan. China seized a US Navy un­der­wa­ter glider in the South China Sea on Dec. 16 in what was seen by Chi­nese an­a­lysts as a warning to Trump.

China said last month that its air­craft car­rier, pur­chased as an in­com­plete hull from Ukraine more than a decade ago, was ready to en­gage in com­bat. The Liaon­ing re­cently com­pleted its first live-fire ex­er­cise along with fight­ers in the Bo­hai Sea in eastern China and, on Fri­day, the mil­i­tary an­nounced it had car­ried out a se­ries of fighter launch, re­cov­ery and air com­bat ex­er­cises slightly farther afield in the Yel­low Sea.

“This ex­er­cise is be­ing car­ried out in ac­cor­dance with an­nual ex­er­cise plans,” the navy said in a state­ment also car­ried on the front page of the of­fi­cial Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Daily. Tai­wan’s de­fence min­istry said yes­ter­day it had been mon­i­tor­ing the drills closely as the Liaon­ing went through the Miyako Strait, a body of wa­ter be­tween the Ja­panese is­lands of Miyako and Ok­i­nawa, head­ing into the Pa­cific. It said it was mon­i­tor­ing whether the air­craft car­rier would con­tinue into the Bashi Chan­nel, which lies be­tween Tai­wan and the Philip­pines, on its re­turn.

China’s mil­i­tary has con­ducted its first ever live-fire drills us­ing an air­craft car­rier and fight­ers in the north­east­ern Bo­hai Sea close to the Korean penin­sula this month, and has more re­cently been in the East China Sea. The navy showed pic­tures on its of­fi­cial mi­croblog from the drills in the East China Sea, in­clud­ing J-15 car­rier-borne fighter jets launch­ing into the sky, over­seen by navy chief Wu Shengli.

They con­ducted aerial re­fu­elling and air com­bat ex­er­cises on Thurs­day, the navy said. China’s grow­ing mil­i­tary pres­ence in the dis­puted South China Sea in par­tic­u­lar has fu­elled con­cern, with the United States crit­i­ciz­ing its mil­i­ta­riza­tion of mar­itime out­posts and hold­ing reg­u­lar air and naval pa­trols to en­sure free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion.

The West­ern Pa­cific ex­er­cise comes amid new ten­sion over sel­f­ruled Tai­wan, fol­low­ing US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s tele­phone call with the is­land’s pres­i­dent that up­set Bei­jing. China’s air force con­ducted lon­grange drills this month above the East and South China Seas that rat­tled Ja­pan and Tai­wan. China said those ex­er­cises were also rou­tine. China’s Soviet-built Liaon­ing air­craft car­rier has par­tic­i­pated in pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, in­clud­ing some in the South China Sea, but China is years away from per­fect­ing car­rier op­er­a­tions sim­i­lar to those the United States has prac­ticed for decades.

The Ja­panese De­fense Min­istry said it spot­ted the Liaon­ing as part of a fleet of eight Chi­nese war­ships that in­cluded de­stroy­ers and frigates, in the cen­tral part of the East China Sea for the first time. It said there was no in­cur­sion into Ja­panese wa­ters. China hasn’t de­scribed specif­i­cally how it in­tends to use the Liaon­ing, but it is seen as help­ing re­in­force China’s in­creas­ingly as­sertive claims over almost all of the South China Sea, which is home to key ship­ping lanes, rich fish­ing grounds and a po­ten­tial wealth of min­eral re­sources. Five other gov­ern­ments claim the mar­itime space ei­ther in part or in whole, and the Philip­pines and Viet­nam in par­tic­u­lar have sought as­sis­tance from the US and oth­ers in beef­ing up their abil­ity to re­sist China, in­clud­ing its con­struc­tion of seven is­lands by pil­ing sand atop co­ral reefs. —Agen­cies

BEI­JING: A Chi­nese J-15 fighter jet land­ing on the deck of the Liaon­ing air­craft car­rier dur­ing mil­i­tary drills in the Bo­hai Sea, off China’s north­east coast. —AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.