The USS Nimitz entered the South China Sea with its strike group on Friday, Jan. 13, 2022.

The USS Nimitz entered the South China Sea with its strike group on Friday, Jan. 13, 2022. (Samuel Osborn/U.S. Navy)

A Chinese aircraft carrier held live-fire exercises in the South China Sea on Saturday, two days after a U.S. carrier strike group arrived in the region, according to Chinese and U.S. sources.

The Chinese carrier Shandong conducted target practice, J-15 jet fighter flight operations and damage control exercises, according to a news release Monday from the official China Military Online.

On Thursday, the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group entered the South China Sea for the first time on its 2022-23 deployment and carried out several exercises, including maritime strike training, and anti-submarine and flight operations, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release Friday.

There was no immediate indication that the ships were in proximity to each other.

The 7th Fleet routinely deploys warships to the region for training and other operations.

The Shandong, China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, was accompanied by a Type 055 stealth guided-missile destroyer and three other guided-missile destroyers, the South China Morning Post reported Monday.

The Nimitz, homeported in Bremerton, Wash., was accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur, USS Chung Hoon and USS Wayne E. Meyer, 7th Fleet said Friday.

Two Chinese ships reportedly began shadowing the strike group within a day of its arrival, CNN reported on Friday, citing an unnamed defense official.

A spokesperson for 7th Fleet did not respond to calls or emails requesting confirmation of the report and other questions.

The two carriers’ operations coincided with the conclusion of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, or 2+2 meeting, between State Secretary Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and their Japanese counterparts, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada.

Blinken said both countries agree that Beijing is the “greatest shared strategic challenge” they face, according to a White House readout of the meeting. Hayashi echoed Blinken, adding that China’s challenge is “unprecedented.”

The Shandong's exercises follow a series of naval drills by China last week, including large-scale combat strike exercises Jan. 9 in the Taiwan Strait. During those exercises, Chinese forces sent 57 aircraft and four ships into the strait toward Taiwan, according to a statement Monday from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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