On Friday, the Chinese military’s official newspaper announced that the Navy will conduct military drill in South China Sea, as part of its annual exercises, without divulging any additional information as to the date, time and location.
According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, this week it had shadowed a Chinese aircraft carrier group traversing the Taiwan Strait in a southwesterly direction – meaning into the disputed South China Sea – in what was judged to be a drill.
“This is a routine annual planned arrangement for the navy, the aim of which is to test and improve the military’s training level and to fully raise the ability to win. It is not aimed at any specific country or target,” the newspaper added, without elaborating.
China frequently conducts military exercises in the region, where it has built artificial islands and constructed airstrips in an effort to assert its sovereignty over the region, upsetting the delicate balance of the region.
This announcement came after a US Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation on Friday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea, according to Reuters, in Washington’s latest attempt to foil Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters of South China Sea. More specifically, the USS Mustin traveled close to Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering operations.
The US has repeatedly criticized China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.
This latest operation came only a day after, US President Donald Trump on Thursday ignited the trade war with China. With a Presidential memorandum he targeted up to 60 bn dollars in Chinese goods with tariffs, but only after a 30-day consultation period that starts once a list is published.