Chinese President Xi Jinping attended a massive military drill by the country’s naval forces in the South China Sea, and stressed that the need for a strong navy “has never been more pressing.”
The naval force demonstration on Thursday involved more than 10,000 navy personnel, 76 jet fighters and a flotilla of 48 warships and submarines.
It arrived after the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, in charge of an attack group of warships, carried out what the US military described as “routine training” in the disputed waters on Tuesday.
State broadcaster China Central Television showed footage of Xi boarding the destroyer Changsha and navigating to an unspecified location in the South China Sea and reviewing the naval maneuver.
The Chinese president also showed himself looking through binoculars at four J-15 fighter jets taking off from the Liaoning aircraft carrier.
Chinese President Xi Jinping poses for a group photo of the destroyer Changsha while reviewing a military exhibition of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018. (Photo via Reuters)
Xi said in a speech to participating naval officers that the People’s Liberation Army should persevere in the development of its marine forces, build modern systems of maritime combat and improve its capacity in diversified military missions.
Upcoming exercises in the Taiwan Strait
Beijing announced later on Thursday that its naval forces will carry out a military simulation of real fire in the Taiwan Strait next Wednesday.
In response to the announcement, the Taiwan Ministry of Defense issued a statement in which it said that its military forces had the situation under control and that they could guarantee the security of the autonomous island, which China claims as part of its territory.
China has the largest permanent army in the world and has been involved in an ambitious modernization program that reportedly includes investment in technology and new equipment such as Stealth fighters and aircraft carriers.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt nuclear aircraft carrier, along with its 65 supersonic fighter jets F-18, spy planes and helicopters later sailed to the Philippine capital of Manila for a visit to the port.
Recent US deployments of aircraft carriers and destroyers to affirm what Washington calls a right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea have generated concern in China and other countries in the region.
At least twice this year, the US Navy UU It has deployed destroyers near the island of Huangyan Dao in the South China Sea, also known as Scarborough Shoal.
Another US carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, patrolled the waters disputed last month, participating in an anti-submarine drill in the South China Sea with Japanese forces and visiting Vietnam with its 5,000-strong crew, the largest US military presence there since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
China protested the war games and described them as the interference of the United States in the region.