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Xi Jinping inspects mass parade of the navy in the South China Sea

At least 10,000 people participated in the drills, which involved 48 warships and 76 combat aircraft, the ministry said.

China's only aircraft carrier, Liaoning, participated in the parade with an exhibition of J-15 fighter jets under the observation of Xi.

The South China Sea has long been a hot spot in Asia. The Chinese government claims a large swath of territory across the sea, overlaid with claims from the Philippines and Vietnam, among others.

The massive exercises of the PLA Navy in the South China Sea sent a clear signal to the other plaintiffs in the region, as well as in the United States, Collin Koh, researcher of the Maritime Safety Program of the School of Studies Internationals of S. Rajaratnam, told CNN. "The PLA Navy is there and they are there to stay," he said.

A series of military simulations with real fire were expected in the region after satellite photos showed Liaoning and a large number of Navy vessels operating in the region on March 26.

Experts told CNN at the time that the large number of ships on display was a "demonstration of strength" by Beijing in the politically sensitive region.

On Friday the maritime security administration for Hainan province was announced a one-week ban on all ships at sea due to "military training".

At a press conference in March, the Ministry of Defense refused to confirm or deny the simulations or the ships that would be involved.

In a harbinger of future exercises, the provincial maritime authority of Fujian on Thursday announced naval exercises with real fire for April 18 in the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese exercises are taking place amid growing tensions between Beijing and Washington over trade, but analysts have also waited for the Trump administration to tighten its policy on the South China Sea.

  United States challenged by China's navy in the South China Sea
A The US aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, arrived in Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday for what was described as a "scheduled visit to the port".

The US Navy UU He recently conducted several "freedom of navigation" operations with warships sailing near the increasingly militarized Chinese man made islands in the South China Sea, unleashing heavy protests from Beijing.

Earlier in the week, Xi gave a highly anticipated speech at the annual Boao Forum for Asia, in Hainan Province, at the northern tip of the South China Sea.

The forum is the Chinese equivalent of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, involving high-level talks between economic leaders.

Speaking on Tuesday, Xi promised a new phase of economic "opening" of China amid threats of a possible trade war with the United States. He also said that China would stick to "the path of peaceful development" in the future.

Carrying out such large exercises directly in the back of their economic forum sent a clear message to the world, Koh said.

"This is to highlight that China is not only an economic power, but also a military and maritime power," he said.


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