BEIJING – China's sole aircraft carrier is heading to the South China Sea for the first time on a mission to test its crew and technical capabilities.
The mission is bound to be closely watched due to China's drive to assert its claims to the entire sea and its islands. China has developed civilian and military outposts and used its coast guard to confront ships from other nations.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the Liaoning was accompanied by two destroyers and a missile cruiser when it left its home port of Qingdao on Tuesday. It has launched and recovered jet fighters but not yet been given its full complement of aircraft.
The Liaoning was bought from Ukraine and extensively refurbished before entering service last year.