Report: U.S. Navy could soon conduct drills in South China Sea

April 3 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy could conduct drills at or near the South China Sea amid rising tensions with Beijing over trade tariffs and Chinese plans to deploy its first domestic aircraft carrier, according to Hong Kong press reports.

Chinese-language newspaper Oriental Daily News reported Tuesday the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group anchored at Singapore port and may soon be deployed to the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea and has successfully militarized the disputed Spratly Islands as neighboring countries back down from confrontation.

The U.S. “maritime training drills,” if carried out, could “greatly provoke” China, the News reported..

The group, led by Carrier Strike Group 9, is planning to conduct operations for the Seventh Fleet, and could conduct joint exercises with the militaries of other countries, the report states.

China recently conducted a large-scale drill involving its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. A total of 40 Chinese ships were involved in the exercises.

China is wary of the U.S. military presence, a Chinese military analyst warned Tuesday.

Jin Yinan, a retired People’s Liberation Army general and former professor at China’s National Defense University, said on China National Radio the United States’ policy of “pressure” against China and Russia could lead the two countries to forge an alliance.

Jin criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s signing of a U.S.-Taiwan travel bill and the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States.

From the U.S. position, “Russia and China must be left apart; when they are together they cannot be confronted,” Jin said.

China has been actively investing in its military, and could soon launch the first sea trial of a domestically produced aircraft carrier, the South China Morning Post reported.

The Type 001A could be deployed ahead of the 69th anniversary of the founding of the PLA Navy on April 23, according to the report.