China hosted a visit this week to its sole aircraft carrier by senior U.S. Navy officers amid tensions over reported plans by Washington to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The delegation of 27 commanders and captains boarded the Liaoning on Monday and held discussions on “exercise management, personnel training, medical protection and strategies in carrier development,” the Chinese navy said on its official microblog.
That was followed Tuesday morning by a visit to the navy’s submarine academy, where further dialogues were held, the navy said.
The visits appear to reflect the growing momentum of military exchanges between the sides, despite occasional flare-ups in tensions and Washington’s complaints over what it calls the Chinese military’s lack of transparency.
The visits follow reports that the U.S. Navy plans to sail a warship inside the 12-nautical-mile (21-kilometer) territorial limit of one of China’s newly constructed islands formed by piling sand atop existing reefs and atolls. That would demonstrate Washington’s refusal to recognize China’s claims in the South China Sea, especially artificial islands that the U.S. insists cannot be classified as sovereign territory.
China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea and its maritime features, while five other governments also claim it in part or in whole. China’s growing assertiveness and a renewed U.S. focus on Asian military affairs are seen as fueling a rise in tensions in the region, which is home to key shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of mineral resources.
Copyright: New York Times