Chinese Aircraft Carrier Cruises Toward Disputed Waters

The big guns come out on the South China Sea at a time of increasing tensions

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China's first aircraft carrier — a former Soviet carrier called the Varyag — docked in the Chinese city of Dalian on Sept. 24, 2012, after its handover to the People's Liberation Army

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, departed for disputed waters in the South China Sea on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Chinese officials announced that the ship, along with two destroyers and two missile cruisers, was making its first cross-sea voyage as part of a “scientific and training mission,” which will just so happen to set a course through waters claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. The neighboring countries also have competing claims over remote islets and their oil-rich seabeds.

The voyage comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region brought on by China’s declaration of an air-defense zone in the East China Sea. Beijing demands that aircraft flying through the zone provide their flight plans and communication frequencies. On Tuesday, the U.S. ignored these demands when it sent two B-52 bombers into the zone. Beijing did not respond to the incursion.