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China holds aircraft carrier drills in waters near Taiwan

The navy’s statement late Monday did not say when the exercises began or how long they would last, but it said more such drills will be held in the future.

It said the naval exercises aimed to “assist in improving the ability to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” terms often interpreted as being directed at Taiwan’s democratically elected government, which has refused to give in to Beijing’s demands that it recognize the island as part of Chinese territory.

China operates two aircraft carriers, of which the Liaoning, originally purchased as a hulk from Ukraine, is the first, having been operating in a combat role since at least 2019.

U.S. military officials and observers have recently warned of increased Chinese threats toward Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949. The U.S. has agreed to recent sales of upgraded warplanes, missiles and other defensive hardware to Taiwan and the island is also revitalizing its own defense industries, particularly by starting a submarine development program.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Sunday said Japan will cooperate with the United States to calm rising tensions between China and Taiwan, saying Taiwan’s peace and stability is key to the region.

Suga is set to meet with President Joe Biden in Washington in coming days, the U.S. leader’s first in-person summit since taking office in January.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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