Beijing [China], May 25 (ANI): As Beijing's assertiveness continues to grow in the South China Sea despite international pressure, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday announced that it recently conducted a live-fire exercise in the sea, where warplanes rained down thousands of munitions at maritime targets, days after a US ship sailed through the waters.
During the exercise, the pilots sought to enhance their sea assault and precision strike capabilities. A brigade attached to the PLA Southern Theater Command Naval Aviation Force organised JH-7 fighter bombers for a live-fire shooting exercise at a maritime target range in the South China Sea, Global Times reported citing China Central Television (CCTV).
Several dozen warplanes participated in the drill, as they penetrated defence lines by skimming the sea at low altitudes, firing rockets and cannon rounds, and dropping aerial bombs on maritime targets.
This comes days after a United States warship sailed through the Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea to demonstrate that these "waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea".
The US Navy's Seventh Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur had conducted freedom of navigation operations in the vicinity of the Paracels, which are claimed by Beijing, Taiwan and Vietnam, Al Jazeera reported.
"Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for the South China Sea littoral nations," said the US Navy's Seventh Fleet in a statement.
China reacted sharply, saying the US had violated Chinese maritime sovereignty and it had expelled the vessel.
"It has also seriously damaged peace and stability in the South China Sea," a Southern Theatre Command spokesman said. "The US behaviour violates international law and basic norms of international relations, increases regional security risks, and is prone to misunderstandings, misjudgments and accidents at sea. It is unprofessional and irresponsible."
However, analysts said that China's recent exercise was not a targeted response, since the exercise was a regular one aimed at enhancing combat readiness, reported Global Times.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.
Beijing's rising assertiveness against counter claimants in the East and South Sea has resulted in unprecedented agreement across the Indo-Pacific. (ANI)