SHANGHAI (Dispatches) -- A Chinese carrier group is exercising near Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and such drills will become regular, China’s navy said late on Monday.
Chinese Taipei has claimed an increase in Chinese military activity near it in recent months, as China steps up efforts to assert its sovereignty over the island.
China’s navy said the carrier group, lead by the Liaoning, the country’s first aircraft carrier put into active service, was carrying out "routine” drills in the waters near Chinese Taipei.
The aim is to "enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty, safety and development interests”, it said. "Similar exercises will be conducted on a regular basis in the future,” the navy added, without elaborating.
China’s statement follows Chinese Taipei’s claim of a new incursion by China’s air force into the island’s air defense identification zone on Monday.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the Liaoning, accompanied by five escort ships, had transited the Miyako Strait on their way to the Pacific.
China’s widely-read Global Times, published by the official People’s Daily, noted the Nanchang, the first of a powerful new fleet of Type 055 destroyers that entered service last year, was part of the carrier group.
"The combination of aircraft carriers and Type 055 large destroyers will become a standard configuration of Chinese aircraft carrier task groups in the future,” it added.
The Liaoning and its sister ship the Shandong have carried out drills or sailed near Chinese Taipei before.
In December 2019, shortly before presidential and parliamentary elections in Chinese Taipei the Shandong sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
Chinese Taipei is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a potential military flashpoint. China has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is committed to peacefully resolving a diplomatic row with China over the disputed South China Sea, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
"We will continue to resolve the issues on Julian Felipe through diplomatic channels and through peaceful means,” said a statement from Duterte read by his spokesman Harry Roque.
China has maintained that Whitsun Reef, known as Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines, was a traditional fishing ground where its vessels were seeking shelter from adverse weather.
The toning down of the Philippine response comes a day after its foreign ministry said it would protest daily if China refused to withdraw boats.