China’s Air Force Conducts First Training Exercise in West Pacific

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China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has conducted its first training exercise above the western Pacific Ocean on Monday, the country’s Defence Ministry said, in a move that could heighten tensions with neighboring countries in the South China Sea.

PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke told Reuters on Monday that PLA aircraft flew to the West Pacific for drills through the Bashi Channel, an international waterway linking the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and returned the same day after completing the training.

“The training was held to promote the air force’s combat capability,” Shen said, noting that the training exercise is part of the Air Force’s annual plan and is in line with what other “major countries” regularly carry out.

“The training complies with relevant international laws and practices, and is not aimed at any country or target and poses no threat to any country or region,” Shen added.

The exercise is the first time Chinese warplanes have conducted drills so far from China’s coastline, Reuters said in the report.

“The US navy and air force have conducted multiple joint exercises at sea, but none were conducted for the Chinese military in the open seas such as the West Pacific Ocean,” said Zhang Junshe, a research fellow with the Navy Military Academic Research Institute.

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