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China flexes military muscle around Taiwan with flights, sea maneuvers

China flexes military muscle around Taiwan with flights, sea maneuvers
China's Type 001A aircraft carrier was seen traveling through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- China's military conducted air and sea exercises near Taiwan amid Beijing's continued opposition to closer ties between Washington and Taipei.

Beijing's forces deployed the aircraft carrier Liaoning and escort vessels in waters near the island nation for a "routine training exercise," CNN reported Wednesday.

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The training was "organized according to the annual work plan to test the troops' training effectiveness and beef up their capability to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests," the Chinese statement said.

The exercise reportedly took place on Monday. Earlier in the week, Japan's defense ministry disclosed a photo of the Liaoning, a Type 001A carrier traveling through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa. The ship was commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy in 2012.

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Taiwan's defense ministry said China also demonstrated air power, with flights of at least 10 PLA warplanes, including J-16 and J-10 fighter jets. A Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft and a KJ-500 early warning aircraft trespassed into Taiwan's air defense identification zone, according to Taipei.

China does not recognize Taiwanese sovereignty. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has declined to rule out the use of force to take back Taiwan, according to CNN.

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Thomas Shugart, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said the exercises come with risks.

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The U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered attack submarines, or SSNs, are active in the open Pacific, he said.

"A Chinese carrier operating east of Taiwan is not particularly valuable being used like that, as it could be quite vulnerable operating that far out -- in SSN-infested deep water and beyond China's integrated air defense/[surface-to-air missile] umbrella," Shugart said, according to CNN.

Writing for Bloomberg, Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, said China could be considering taking "significant action," because it is eyeing a window of opportunity.

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"The evolution of military technologies would ... seem to argue for Chinese action sooner rather than later," Cowen said.

"Even a very powerful China might find Taiwan difficult to conquer in 20 years. At the current moment, Taiwan's defense capabilities seem especially run down."

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