The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, shown here April 28, 2020, was at sea conducting exercises in September 2020 while a second carrier, the Shandong, was also at sea.

The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, shown here April 28, 2020, was at sea conducting exercises in September 2020 while a second carrier, the Shandong, was also at sea. (Japan Ministry of Defense)

China’s two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, recently completed military drills in the South China Sea, according to a statement by the Chinese Ministry of Defense on Thursday.

It was the first time the Chinese navy has sent two carriers to sea at once, though the ships did not train together. The Shandong was commissioned in December; the Liaoning was commissioned in 2012.

While at sea, the Liaoning completed “regular exercises” while the Shandong conducted sea trials, according to a Thursday article by the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times. Sea trials are a testing phase of ships and their systems.

“The moves aimed to test the equipment’s performance and troops’ training results, and boost their capability to carry out missions,” Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Tan Kefei said at a press conference Thursday, according to the Global Times.

Both of the carriers went to sea in early September, according to the newspaper. The Shandong steamed into the Bohai Sea and the Liaoning was seen in the Yellow Sea, according the Global Times.

The Chinese military also completed combat exercises near the Taiwan Strait last weekend that were “meant to target foreign interference and Taiwan separatists,” Tan said Thursday, according to the Chinese Communist Party-owned China Daily news.

“If Taiwan separatist forces dare to attempt Taiwan’s secession under any circumstances, we will do whatever it takes to thwart their efforts,” Tan said, according to China Daily.

The exercises came a day after U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., introduced the “Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act” into the Senate.

The bill would pledge to help Taiwan “counter Communist China’s military buildup across the Taiwan straits,” authorize the president to use military force to protect Taiwan and encourage the Defense Department to send “appropriate personnel” to Taiwan’s National Defense Academy, according to a Sept. 17 statement by Scott’s office.

“Communist China continues to threaten our important ally — a threat not only to the people of Taiwan, but to the United States and our allies around the globe,” Scott said in the statement.

“We must do everything we can to discourage Communist China from using military force against a peaceful democratic power, and the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act demonstrates our commitment to Taiwan and to the importance of freedom and democracy,” he added. Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos

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Caitlin Doornbos covers the Pentagon for Stars and Stripes after covering the Navy’s 7th Fleet as Stripes’ Indo-Pacific correspondent at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Previously, she worked as a crime reporter in Lawrence, Kan., and Orlando, Fla., where she was part of the Orlando Sentinel team that placed as finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Caitlin has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas and master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from the University of Texas at El Paso.

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