Chinese warships and aircraft yesterday passed through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines to carry out routine planned exercises in the Western Pacific, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said.
No immediate response was available from Taiwan as of press time.
China’s increasingly assertive moves to press sovereignty claims in the East and South China seas have rattled the region and aroused concern in Washington, though the country says it has no hostile intent.
China has overlapping claims with Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
Yesterday’s drills could cause alarm because of their location.
China and the Philippines have one of the most bitter disputes over the South China Sea of all the claimants.
The joint drills tested and perfected battle strategies and “achieved their expected aims,” Chinese navy spokesman Liang Yang (梁陽) said in a statement.
The exercises, in the waters east of the Bashi Channel, were routine annual drills, not aimed at any specific country or region, and accorded with international law and practices, Liang said.
“During the drills there was no impact upon freedom of navigation or fly-through in the relevant seas or air,” Liang added.
Such drills involving ships and aircraft far out at sea are common practice in other countries and normal for the Chinese military, he said.
“Going forward, similar drills and exercises will keep taking place,” Liang said.
A Philippine Coast Guard official said that the agency had noticed nothing unusual in the waters to the north of the country.
China has ramped up defense spending to modernize its forces, the world’s largest, which are gaining experience in operating great distances from the Chinese coastline.
In a defense strategy paper last month, China vowed to continue growing its “open seas protection” and criticized neighbors who take “provocative actions” on its reefs and islands.
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