The announcement comes after Beijing criticized the U.S. for sending Navy ships to the strategic zone.
China’s Shandong aircraft carrier group recently conducted annual exercises in the South China Sea, the People’s Liberation Army said on Sunday after Beijing criticized the U.S. for sending Navy ships to the strategic area.
Navy spokesman Gao Xiucheng said in a statement that the exercises were “completely legitimate” and were part of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as maintaining regional peace and stability. .
“We hope that the outside world will see it objectively and rationally. In the future, the Chinese navy will continue to do exercises similar to those planned, ”Gao said.
Last week, the Chinese defense ministry urged the United States to curb its front-line forces in the air and in the seas near China. U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and warships have become more active in China since President Joe Biden took office, he said.
The South China Sea is particularly controversial because China’s smaller neighbors also have competent claims on one of the world’s busiest waterways, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety. China has built several artificial islands in disputed waters in what the U.S. says is a move to militarize the area.
China has repeatedly complained that U.S. Navy ships are approaching the islands it occupies in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims.
U.S. carrier groups have sailed near China-controlled islands in disputed waters several times this year, with China’s complaint.
The Shandong is the second Chinese aircraft carrier to enter service after the Liaoning, which was originally purchased as a hulk in Ukraine and completely refurbished.
Shandong entered service in 2019 and is the more recent of the two Chinese carriers.
The Chinese navy said similar exercises would take place more regularly last month amid escalating tensions with the island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its sovereign territory.