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Chinese aircraft carrier carries out drills in Western Pacific for first time

By Stephen Feller
Chinese aircraft carrier carries out drills in Western Pacific for first time
The Chinese navy took it's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, along with several destroyers and frigates to the Western Pacific to conduct military drills, weeks after conducting its first live-fire drill at sea. Photo by Xinhua

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- China's first aircraft carrier was spotted by the militaries of several countries as it made it's way to the Western Pacific for drills farther than the Chinese has ever conducted them.

The Liaoning headed through the East China Sea early Monday on its way to what China called routine scheduled drills that are drawing concern from nations in the region and beyond as Beijing looks to show off more of its naval muscle, weeks after conducting its first live-fire drills near the Korean peninsula.

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Although details of the training mission have not been announced, the drills are the latest show of strength by China and have drawn concern from the countries that circle the South China Sea.

"A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, headed towards the West Pacific on Saturday for scheduled blue water training," a Chinese Navy spokesperson Liang Yang told Xinhua, adding that the exercises have "strengthened the synergy among different vessels in the formation and refined its overall capability."

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Liaoning was commissioned in 2012, and has been used regularly for some training and other testing, however the recent live-fire drills were the first the carrier has been involved in and the training mission in the Western Pacific is the farthest from the Chinese mainland the military has conducted.

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The ships have been tracked by Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan as they pass through the South China Sea, with reports saying the ships had not been violating other territorial waters, which the Chinese have been known to do since disputes over the South China Sea flared up earlier this year.

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