China conducts air-sea live-fire drills

Chinese fighter jets on the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military drills in the Bohai Sea, off China's north-east coast. The drills come amid fresh tension over Taiwan after Mr Trump's call with President Tsai.
Chinese fighter jets on the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military drills in the Bohai Sea, off China's north-east coast. The drills come amid fresh tension over Taiwan after Mr Trump's call with President Tsai.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

First such exercise using aircraft carrier and fighters carried out near Korean peninsula

BEIJING • China's military has carried out its first live-fire drills using an aircraft carrier and fighters in the north-eastern Bohai Sea close to the Korean peninsula, state media said.

The drills come amid new tension over self-ruled Taiwan, following US President-elect Donald Trump's recent telephone call with the island's President Tsai Ing-wen that upset Beijing.

Ten vessels and 10 aircraft engaged in air-to-air, air-to-sea and sea-to-air combat drills that featured guided missiles, state broadcaster CCTV reported late on Thursday.

"This is the first time an aircraft carrier squadron has performed drills with live ammunition and real troops," it said.

China's Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier and a formation of warships carried out aerial interception, anti-aircraft and anti-missile drills, in which Shenyang J-15 fighter jets carrying live missiles also participated, CCTV said.

It broadcast images of fighter jets taking off from the carrier, firing missiles and destroying a target at sea.

The Liaoning has participated in previous military exercises, including some in the South China Sea, but the country is still years away from perfecting carrier operations similar to those the US has practised for decades.

Last December the Chinese Defence Ministry confirmed China was building a second aircraft carrier to go with the existing vessel, but its launch date is unclear.

China keeps its aircraft carrier programme a state secret, and CCTV blurred images showing the cockpit instrument panel of one aircraft involved in the Bohai Sea drills.

Beijing could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years, the Pentagon said in a report last year.

Since the phone conversation between Mr Trump and Ms Tsai on Dec 2, China has sent military aircraft close to Japanese territory near the Miyako Strait and reportedly sent a bomber to circumnavigate disputed territory in the resource-rich South China Sea. Its air force has described the flights as "routine".

Satellite images published this week by a US think-tank showed structures on Chinese-built artificial islands that appeared to be large anti-aircraft guns and close-in wea- pons systems designed to take out incoming missiles and enemy aircraft, the think-tank said.

China's Defence Ministry said on a verified social media account that the construction was mostly for civilian use, and that necessary military installations were for self-defence. "If someone were flexing his muscles outside your door, wouldn't you get a slingshot ready?" it wrote.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2016, with the headline 'China conducts air-sea live-fire drills'. Print Edition | Subscribe