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China’s navy says ongoing drills near Taiwan to become regular

This is a file photo of China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning.

China says the sailing of a Chinese carrier group near self-ruled Taiwan is part of naval drills that will become regular.

China’s navy said late on Monday that the carrier group, led by China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was carrying out “routine” drills in the waters near the self-ruled island.

The aim is to “enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty, safety and development interests,” the navy said, adding, “Similar exercises will be conducted on a regular basis in the future.”

China’s official newspaper, Global Times, said 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 wrote.

The navy made the statement after Taiwan accused China of carrying out “a new incursion” into the island’s self-designated air defense identification zone on Monday.

China, which has sovereignty over Taiwan, had said previoulsy that the drills conducted in the region were part of normal arrangements made by Beijing.

Under the internationally-recognized “One China” policy, nearly all countries recognize China’s sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan. But the island’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, has separatist ambitions. She has been overseeing a revamp of the island’s military, rolling out new equipment such as “carrier killer” stealth corvettes.

Meanwhile, the US, which backs the secessionist Taiwanese president, continues to sell weapons to the island in defiance of Beijing and in violation of its own official policy.

Washington has been pressing Taiwan to build up its military against China.

Beijing condemns the expanding US ties with Taiwan and its weapons sales to the island territory as a violation of China’s sovereignty.

The US also attempts to challenge Chinese soveriengty in the South and East China Seas.

On Saturday, the US Navy destroyer USS Mustin sailed into the East China Sea and edged close to China’s Yangtze River estuary before heading south.

According to the Beijing-based think tank South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, the US Navy Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group entered the South China Sea via the Strait of Malacca.

A Chinese military affairs expert told Global Times on Monday that the US was making military provocations in the region.

China claims sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea. The strategic body of water serves as a gateway to global sea routes, through which about 3.4 trillion dollars of trade passes each year.

Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims with China to parts of the sea.

The East China Sea is the scene of similar though more limited disputes.

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