China sent its sole aircraft carrier on a training mission into the South China Sea on Tuesday amid maritime disputes with the Philippines and other neighbours and tension over its plan to set up an airspace defence zone in waters disputed with Japan.
The Liaoning, bought used from Ukraine and refurbished in China, has conducted more than 100 exercises and experiments since it was commissioned last year but this is the first time it has been sent to the South China Sea.
The Liaoning left port from the northern city of Qingdao accompanied by two destroyers and two frigates, the Chinese navy said on an official news website.
While there, it will carry out "scientific research, tests and military drills", the report said.
"This is the first time since the Liaoning entered service that it has carried out long-term drills on the high seas," it added.
The real beneficiaries of this exercise by the PLAN in sending its sole refurbished aircraft carrier will be the U.S. submarine force and any other countries in the area who can get their diesel electric boats out to play in time.