China is holding naval drills involving an aircraft carrier battlegroup near Taiwan.
Beijing stated the exercises aim to "assist in improving the ability to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests" – an apparent reference to Beijing's claim to the self-governed Taiwan.
These terms are often interpreted as being directed at Taiwan's democratically elected government, which has refused to give in to Beijing's demands that it recognise the island as part of Chinese territory.
The Chinese navy added the exercises involving the Liaoning aircraft carrier are routine and assigned under an annual schedule.
In a statement on 5 April, the Chinese navy did not say when the exercises started or how long they would last but did say more similar drills will be held in the future.
China has been steadily increasing its threat to take control of the island militarily with exercises and incursions into the island’s air defence identification zone.
US military officials and observers have recently warned of increased Chinese threats toward Taiwan, which split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.
It comes as the US recently agreed to sell improved warplanes, missiles and other defensive hardware to Taiwan.
The island is also revitalising its own defence industries, including starting a submarine development programme.
In a move certain to anger Beijing, the US Navy said the Theodore Roosevelt carrier and its strike group had re-entered the South China Sea on 3 April to "conduct routine operations".
China claims virtually all of the South China Sea and routinely objects to the presence of foreign militaries in the area, especially the US Navy.
It will be the second time the strike group has entered the waterway this year as part of its 2021 deployment to the US 7th Fleet area of operations.
In a statement, the 7th Fleet said the strike group will "conduct fixed and rotary-wing flight operations, maritime strike exercises, anti-submarine operations, coordinated tactical training, and more" while in the area.
The US Navy says it has a right to operate in international waters and emphasised the point by sending destroyers to sail close by Chinese-held features in the area.
Beijing considers the US Navy's incursions to be highly provocative.
Cover image: PA.