US naval officers visit China's lone aircraft carrier

BEIJING • Senior US naval officers visited China's lone aircraft carrier this week, China's military said, as the two powers try to maintain military ties despite mounting tensions over Beijing's claims in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

The visit by the 27-member delegation to the Liaoning, a refitted former Soviet carrier, came as Washington considers sailing warships through international waters claimed by China, a move that would infuriate Beijing.

The US captains exchanged views with their Chinese peers on topics such as "personnel training and management, medical support and aircraft carrier development strategy", the Chinese navy's official microblog said late on Monday.

The visit was not covered widely in Chinese media until yesterday.

On Tuesday, the US delegation visited the Chinese navy's submarine school, the microblog said, part of what was a reciprocal visit for a one-week trip to the US by Chinese naval officers in February.

China-US relations have become increasingly strained over Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have claims in the area.

The US is considering holding freedom-of-navigation operations within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands China has built in the sea.

Former US defence secretary Chuck Hagel made the first official foreign visit to the Liaoning last year, a move seen then as an attempt at transparency by China's military.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline 'US naval officers visit China's lone aircraft carrier'. Print Edition | Subscribe