South China Sea: Chinese military stages live-fire missile drill, US Navy on Paracels patrol

Catherine Wong, South China Morning Post

Posted at Feb 28 2021 11:31 AM

South China Sea: Chinese military stages live-fire missile drill, US Navy on Paracels patrol 1
China’s Southern Theatre Command tested its response to repeated missile attacks. Photo: Handout

There are fresh signs from the Chinese and the American armed forces that tensions over the South China Sea will continue under the new US administration.

The Chinese military's Southern Theatre Command conducted a live-fire drill to test its response to repeated missile attacks in a "far sea", state broadcaster CCTV reported on Saturday without saying when or where the exercise took place.

The drill involved the guided-missile destroyer Yinchuan, guided-missile frigate Hengyang, the amphibious dock landing ship Wuzhishan, and the support ship Chagan Hu, according to the report.

The Southern Theatre Command is responsible for overseeing the vast waters claimed by China in the South China Sea.

At the same time, the US has been stepping up reconnaissance activities in the area.

The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative said a US surveillance ship had been sailing around the Paracel Islands since Tuesday.

"USNS Impeccable is sailing around the Paracel Islands, and where is the destination? This kind of regular track points is unusual for a reconnaissance ship in this area," the Beijing think tank said on Twitter on Friday.

The US also sent a reconnaissance aircraft to fly over the South China Sea off the coast of Taiwan on Saturday, the think tank said in another post.

The USNS Impeccable was at the centre of a confrontation in 2009 when the unarmed ocean surveillance vessel was shadowed by five Chinese ships off the southern island of Hainan. The incident sparked a diplomatic row between Beijing and Washington.

Tensions have been rising between China and the US, with Beijing repeatedly protesting against US military operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

Earlier this week, at least 10 Chinese bombers, including the Chinese navy's most advanced H-6J aircraft, took part in maritime strike exercises in the waters immediately after an escalation of the US military presence in the area.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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