China conducts naval drills in S.China Sea, prepares for post-pandemic US military provocations
Published: May 05, 2020 07:33 PM

A ship-borne J-15 fighter jet prepares to land at the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning (Hull 16). A Chinese Navy flotilla including aircraft carrier Liaoning has conducted a series of exercises in the South China Sea since the grand naval parade last Thursday. Photo:

With an ace pilot of an aircraft carrier-based fighter jet flying above, warships sailing below and anti-submarine aircraft conducting surveillance in the South China Sea, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is ready to defend against any US military provocation, even if the US resumes use of its aircraft carriers that are affected by COVID-19, analysts said on Tuesday.

Yuan Wei, an ace PLA pilot of J-15 ship-borne fighter jet flew a type of fighter jet in exercises held from a South China Sea naval port in South China's Hainan Province, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.

The Liaoning aircraft carrier task force wrapped up its South China Sea exercises on Thursday, so Yuan's training was probably meant for the Shandong, China's recently commissioned second aircraft carrier, which is believed to be homeported in the South China Sea's doorstep Hainan, military observers said.

Also conducting exercises in the South China Sea are the warships of the PLA Navy 35th Escort Task Group. The destroyer Taiyuan, frigate Jingzhou and replenishment ship Chaohu conducted anti-piracy and live-fire shooting training there on Saturday, CCTV reported on Tuesday.

Anti-submarine aircraft under the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy recently conducted patrol and anti-submarine missions, the PLA Daily reported on Monday.

On April 28, the PLA Southern Theater Command expelled a US destroyer, the USS Barry, when it trespassed into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. However, the US continued and sent the USS Bunker Hill cruiser to the Nansha Islands on April 29. The US also reportedly flew B-1B bombers over the South China Sea and East China Sea during the May Day holiday.

Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu told the Global Times on Tuesday that the US has been sending reconnaissance aircraft to the First Island Chain to gather intelligence on China.

Against these provocations, China needs to utilize its capability to grasp their activities and take appropriate countermeasures, Wei said.

China can send warplanes to drive them away or launch electronic countermeasures to disrupt them if they come too close, Wei said.

Once hit by COVID-19, aircraft carrier USS Nimitz has now left its port and is scheduled to be deployed to the Pacific this summer, US media outlet Navy Times reported on April 27. This means the US will finally have a carrier ready for operation near China since the disease broke out on four of its carriers.

Military experts expect the US military to escalate provocations against China when the epidemic eases.

The recent exercises show the PLA is ready at any time to safeguard national sovereignty, analysts said.