Beijing — China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning left on a training mission to the South China Sea for the first time Tuesday, escorted by two missile destroyers and two missile frigates, said Chinese state media.
The mission comes at a time when Japan and the United States raised concerns over China’s establishment of an air defence identification zone above the East China Sea over the weekend, which it says is aimed to safeguard its state sovereignty.
China has disputes in the South China Sea with several Asian nations, including the Philippines and Vietnam.
Xinhua News Agency reported from the Liaoning that a J-15 fighter and other aircraft had already conducted takeoff and landing drills on the carrier since it left its homeport of Qingdao in Shandong province.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy said the mission is necessary to test the carrier’s equipment capabilities, Xinhua reported.
The Liaoning is China’s only aircraft carrier, and was put into service in September, said reports.