Russia Warns Countries Against Hosting Ukraine Military Aircraft

In this file photo. Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Saint Petersburg governor at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 1, 2022. Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Russia on Sunday warned Ukraine’s neighbours including NATO member Romania against hosting Kyiv’s military aircraft, saying they could end up being involved in an armed conflict. 

“We know for sure that Ukrainian combat aircraft have flown to Romania and other neighbouring countries,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video briefing.

“The use of the airfield network of these countries for basing Ukrainian military aviation with the subsequent use of force against Russia’s army can be regarded as the involvement of these states in an armed conflict,” he added.

“It’s pure rhetoric designed to divert attention from what is really happening on the ground — civilians killed, the rules of armed conflict flouted,” Romania’s Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca said during a television interview.

Read Also: Putin Threatens Ukraine ‘Statehood’ As Moscow Sanctions Tighten

Moscow could try all they want to scare Romania, he added, but “we have no reason to feel threatened”.

Ciuca raised an incident reported by the Romanian military on February 24, the first day of the conflict, when a Ukrainian fighter jet was intercepted in Romanian airspace and forced to land.

The pilot told the Romanian authorities that the incursion and been due to a technical problem.

His jet was allowed to leave, unarmed, a few days later and the incident had been made public — “in all transparency” — precisely to avoid any misunderstanding with Moscow, Ciuca added.

Konashenkov also claimed that “practically all” Ukraine’s combat-ready aircraft had been destroyed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly demanded that Western powers enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent more Russian attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow will consider any country imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine to have entered into the military conflict.

AFP

Air Operators Commend FG, Customs Over Duty Waivers On Aircraft

 

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has commended the Federal Government for its swift response in removing 7 per cent surcharge on imported aircraft and spares and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for the support it has given to the operators.

The Vice Chairman of AON who is also the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, gave the commendation on Wednesday.

He also frowned at what he described as a media distortion of the proceedings in the interactive forum at the Senate on July 6, 2021, when he made a presentation on behalf of the airlines on the challenges the operators are facing.

According to Onyema, an online medium reported the meeting as an issue concerning Air Peace alone and brought an ethnic dimension to it, which he described as highly condemnable.

He explained that the Senate Committee on Aviation held an interactive meeting with all the aviation agencies in Nigeria led by the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, together with all Nigerian airlines represented by the AON leadership in which he represented the association as Vice President and made presentation on behalf of the body.

“The meeting was called by the Senate to discuss the reasons for the recent upsurge in flight delays and flight cancellations amongst other issues and challenges facing the aviation industry. It was on this occasion that AON made its presentation of challenges facing all the airlines. Our member airlines were present but we made an articulated collective presentation to the Senate, which I read as the Vice President on behalf of the association,” he further explained.

“It was on this occasion that AON presented the issue of the partial implementation of the Finance Act 2020 which prohibits the payment of duties and VAT on imported aircraft and aircraft spares by the Customs Service. Of note, was the presence of a 7 per cent Surcharge on the assessed duties which was not supposed to be. This caused delays in the clearance of aircraft and aircraft spares leading to grounding of aircraft that would have been flying,” he explained.

The AON Vice Chairman stated that after the Senate meeting, the airlines contacted the Minister of Finance and Minister of Aviation on the aforementioned challenges and both Ministers, “as representatives of a responsible government, swung into action immediately.”

“AON, for the avoidance of doubt, commends the Federal Government for its unflinching support for the growth of indigenous investments in Nigeria. This was very evident in the manner the government got this challenge addressed immediately within 48 hours to the joy of the airlines.

“We equally commend the Nigerian Customs Service for also assisting the airlines, including but not limited to Air Peace which was used as an example, in getting their aircraft spares and aircraft released. Our planes have since started flying,” he said.

Onyema said since the 7th day of July, 2021, airlines have been clearing their aircraft spares and aircraft without having to pay any 7 per cent surcharge.

“It is therefore very mischievous for any media outfit to be circulating videos of the presentation of AON complaints made on July 6th two weeks after the said presentation and two weeks after the issues had been resolved as though they are still existing”.

The target of the sponsors of this falsehood is the Federal Government of President Muhammadu Buhari. I personally frown at the ethnic angle presently circulating in the social media that the ‘Fulani’ is destroying Air Peace.

“Those who want the country to go up in turmoil will never stop fanning divisive falsehood. The video was deliberately doctored to show only my face while obscuring the presence of the entire Senate committee members, Minister of Aviation and the leadership of all Aviation agencies in Nigeria. The target here is also me. No amount of deliberate intimidation, blackmail and falsehood will deter me from standing up for Peace and unity in my country. This has been my life since my childhood.

“It is very untrue that Air Peace is being dealt with by the ‘fulani’ rather the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari is very protective of every indigenous investment including those of the airlines,” he added.

Onyeama said that contrary to the insinuations that only Air Peace was singled out by Customs to pay those contested surcharges; it was all the airlines that were affected.

“Nobody is ‘dealing’ with Air Peace rather this government is very protective of Air Peace. This is evident in the government refusing to allow one Middle East airline from coming into Nigeria because its Covid-19 protocol was discriminatory and unfavourable to a Nigerian airline. Which airline is that? Air Peace, of course.

“Those using the social media to destroy the country and promote hate should think of the consequences of their actions. Azman Air was affected and it is owned by a Fulani.

Max Air was affected and it is owned by a Fulani. The list goes on. Why are we bent on spooling out falsehood that causes disunity and tremendous disaffection in the country? Why are people bent on promoting hate amongst our diverse peoples? For those promoting hate, the Rwandan story beckons on them,” he added.

The AON Vice Chairman said the present government, in its pursuit for the growth of indigenous airlines helped in getting the Bill removing duties and VAT from imported commercial aircraft and aircraft spares passed while the President wasted no time in giving his assent and signing into law, describing the move as commendable.

Indonesia’s Deadliest Air Crashes

 

 

The crash of a Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 about four minutes after it took off from Jakarta Saturday is the latest in a series of air accidents to rock Indonesia.

The Southeast Asian archipelago relies heavily on air transport to connect its thousands of islands but has suffered a string of deadly plane crashes in recent years.

The aviation sector is expanding fast as its economy booms but there are concerns airlines are struggling to find enough well-trained personnel to keep up with the rapid growth.

Once banned from European airspace over safety fears, the EU removed all Indonesian airlines from its safety blacklist in 2018 following improvements.

Here are the worst aviation disasters in the nation’s history:

Northern Sumatra

The worst disaster in Indonesia’s aviation history left 234 dead in 1997. An Airbus A-300B4 operated by national carrier Garuda Indonesia crashed in a smog-shrouded ravine in North Sumatra, just short of Medan’s airport.

Lion Air

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 from budget airline Lion Air crashes off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018, killing 189 passengers and crew members.

Investigators cite problems with the plane’s anti-stall system as one of the contributing factors.

Java Sea

In 2014, an AirAsia plane plunged into the Java Sea during stormy weather, killing 162 people. The plane was flying from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Medan disaster

A Mandala Airlines domestic flight crashed shortly after take-off in 2005 into a densely populated suburb in Medan, a city of two million on the island of Sumatra, killing at least 150 including passengers, crew and people on the ground.

Military families

In June 2015 an Indonesian military plane crashed shortly after takeoff, also coming down in a residential area in Medan, killing around 122 people on board, many of them servicemen and women and their families. Around 20 people were also killed on the ground and several housing blocks torn apart.

Air Force fire

In 1991, an Air Force plane crashed in East Jakarta minutes after take off when an engine caught fire, killing 135 people according to reports. Those who died included 121 airmen, 12 crew and two people on the ground. One passenger survived.

River crash

In 1997, a Silk Air flight crashed into a river near the Indonesian city of Palembang while on its way to Singapore from Jakarta. All 104 passengers and crew were killed in what was investigated as a possible pilot murder-suicide.

New Year’s Day crash

An Adam Air plane plunged into the sea off Sulawesi island on New Year’s Day 2007, killing all 102 people on board. The airline was later banned from flying. Indonesian authorities said the pilots lost control after becoming preoccupied with malfunctioning navigational equipment.

Indonesia Says Black Box Recorders From Crashed Plane Located

Navy sailors recover a piece of wreckage (bottom C, in red) during recovery operations near Lancang Island on January 10, 2021, following the January 9 crash of Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 into the Java Sea following takeoff. (Photo by ADEK BERRY / AFP)

 

Authorities have pinpointed the location of two black boxes from a crashed Indonesian jet, they said Sunday, referring to cockpit voice and flight data recorders that could help explain why the aircraft went down with 62 people aboard.

The announcement came as divers pulled body parts, wreckage and clothing from waters off Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.

“We have located the position of the black boxes, both of them,” said Soerjanto Tjahjanto, head of Indonesia’s transport safety agency.

“Divers will start looking for them now and hopefully it won’t be long before we get them.”

The Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 went into a steep dive about four minutes after it left Soekarno-Hatta international airport in Jakarta on Saturday afternoon.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo expressed his “deep condolences”, and called on citizens to “pray together so that victims can be found”.

But the frantic search involving helicopters and a flotilla of warships appeared to offer no hope of finding any survivors.

The search and rescue agency said it had so far collected five body bags with human remains as well as debris from the crash site in the Java Sea.

A piece of child’s clothing, a broken tyre and wheel, life jackets and wreckage from the plane’s body were found, according to authorities and AFP reporters on the scene.

Among the passengers was Beben Sofian, 59, and her husband Dan Razanah, 58.

“They took a selfie and sent it to their kids before taking off,” the couple’s nephew Hendra told AFP.

All 62 people on board, passengers and crew, were Indonesian, authorities said. The count included 10 children.

– ‘Torn into pieces’ –

Distraught relatives waited nervously for news at the airport in Pontianak, the city on Indonesia’s section of Borneo island which had been flight SJ182’s destination, about 90 minutes flying time over the Java Sea.

“I have four family members on the flight — my wife and three children,” Yaman Zai said on Saturday evening as he sobbed.

“(My wife) sent me a picture of the baby today… How could my heart not be torn into pieces?”

Data from FlightRadar24 indicated that the airliner reached an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet (3,350 metres) before dropping suddenly to 250 feet. It then lost contact with air traffic control.

The transport minister said Saturday that the jet appeared to deviate from its intended course just before it disappeared from radar.

Poor weather, pilot error or a technical problem with the plane were potential factors, said Jakarta-based aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman.

“But it’s way too early to conclude anything,” he added.

“After the black box is found we can start putting the puzzle together.”

Sriwijaya Air, which operates flights to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, has said only that it was investigating the loss of contact.

It did not immediately comment when contacted by AFP again on Sunday.

– Reputation for poor safety –

In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet crashed near Jakarta.

That crash — and another in Ethiopia — saw Boeing hit with $2.5 billion in fines over claims it defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which was grounded worldwide following the two deadly crashes.

The 26-year-old 737 that went down Saturday was not a MAX variant.

“Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families,” Boeing said in a statement, adding that it was in contact with the airline.

Indonesia’s aviation sector has long had a reputation for poor safety, and its airlines were once banned from entering US and European airspace.

In 2014, an AirAsia plane headed from Surabaya to Singapore crashed with the loss of 162 lives.

Domestic investigators’ final report on that crash said major factors included a chronically faulty component in a rudder control system, poor maintenance, and the pilots’ inadequate response.

A year later, in 2015, more than 140 people, including scores on the ground, were killed when a military plane crashed shortly after take-off in Medan on Sumatra island.

Turkish Airlines To Know Fate Over Suspension Of Operating Licence By NCAA

FG Sacks Directors Of NCAA

 

Turkish Airlines will know their fate regarding the suspension of their operating license by the Federal Government.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had earlier issued the airline a warning over its use of small aircraft, as well as not bringing passengers into Nigeria with their checked-in luggage.

READ ALSO: Kaduna-Abuja Highway Now Safe – El-Rufai

According to a letter by the Acting Director-General, NCAA, Abdullahi Sidi, the incident has been going on for two weeks and become so bad that most recent Turkish Airlines’ flights arrived in Nigeria without more than 85 percent of passengers’ baggage on board.”

Channels Television gathered that the NCAA is to meet later today to take a decision on the airline’s operating license after it came into the country this morning with a bigger aircraft.

Russians Hail ‘Hero’ Pilot After Moscow Emergency Landing

A Russian pilot was being hailed as a hero on Thursday for landing an Airbus carrying more than 230 people in a Moscow cornfield after a bird strike.

The Ural Airlines A321 flying to Crimea hit a flock of seagulls shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Zhukovsky airport on Thursday morning, the Rosaviatsia air transport agency said in a statement.

Birds were sucked into the engines and the crew decided to immediately land, bringing the plane down in the cornfield about a kilometre from the runway, with the engines off and the landing gear retracted.

The aircraft, carrying 226 passengers and seven crew, was evacuated using inflatable ramps.

The health ministry said 23 people were sent to hospital but there were no serious injuries. Only one patient, a 69-year-old woman with moderate injuries, required further hospitalisation, it said.

“It all happened in a few seconds… We took off and came back down,” passenger Irina Usacheva told state television channel Rossiya 24.

Passenger Svetlana Babina said the bird strike could be heard from inside the plane and that the engines started making “strange noises”.

“We have to pay tribute to the pilot, in the circumstances he landed as softly as possible,” she told the RIA Novosti news agency.

“Everyone is alive! The pilot is a genius,” passenger Olga told tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, saying applause broke out following the landing.

The pilot, identified as 41-year-old Yekaterinburg native Damir Yusupov, was praised for his quick thinking.

“The crew of the Ural Airlines flight showed fantastic skill and cool-headedness,” said Yevgeny Kuyvashev, the governor of Yusupov’s home region.

“He and his team saved 233 lives. They are heroes.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also hailed the “hero pilots” who landed the plane.

Illegal dumps near airports

Russia’s investigative committee said it had opened a probe into the incident.

The committee posted a video on its website of the plane on its belly in the field of corn, with the evacuation ramps deployed. Investigators could be seen examining the interior of the cockpit.

The plane had been flying to Simferopol, the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea, a popular summer destination for many Russians.

Zhukovsky, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Moscow city centre, opened in 2016 as Moscow’s fourth international airport. A Soviet-era test flight centre, it hosts the biennial MAKS international aviation show.

Several experts pointed to a growing problem of birds gathering at illegal dumping sites close to Moscow’s airports.

“The problem with birds is enormous,” aviation safety expert Alexander Romanov told RIA Novosti. “It comes from, among other things, landfills that are scattered in violation of all regulations.”

Residents close to Zhukovsky said an illegal landfill was located between the airport and the Moscow river and that seagulls gathered constantly there.

Russia was once notorious for plane accidents but its air traffic safety record has improved in recent years.

The last major accident was in May, when a Sukhoi Superjet belonging to national carrier Aeroflot crash-landed and burst into flames at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, killing 41 people.

The plane, bound for the Arctic city of Murmansk, turned around after being struck by lightning, bounced on the runway on landing and caught fire.

AFP

Cardiff Striker Emiliano Sala On Board A Missing Plane – French Police

This file photo taken on November 25, 2017 shows Nantes’ Argentinian Italian forward Emiliano Sala during the French L1 football match between Stade Rennais (Stade Resnais FC) and Nantes (FC Nantes) at The Roazhon Park in Rennes.

 

British Premier League club Cardiff City’s record new signing, Argentina-born striker Emiliano Sala, was on board a light aircraft that disappeared over the English Channel on Monday night, police sources told AFP.

Sala, signed by Cardiff on Saturday from French club Nantes for a club record fee, was flying to Cardiff aboard a small plane that went missing around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the island of Guernsey.

Customs Seize N7.3bn Worth Of Tramadol, Two Aircraft

 

The Nigeria Customs Service on Thursday seized 40-foot containers loaded with tramadol and other drugs from India worth N7, 318,978,065.00.

According to a statement by the spokesman for the service, Joseph Attah, officers also intercepted a helicopter and an aircraft from the United States of America over failure to provide end-user certificate and other documents.

Attah explained that the arrest was made possible following intelligence and collaboration with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NAFDAC).

The statement read v in part, “It is in line with the determination to fight this ugly trend that the Apapa Command of the Service intercepted 40 X 40 feet containers, mostly from India, laden with Tramadol and other pharmaceutical products with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of Seven Billion, Three Hundred and Eighteen Million, Nine Hundred And Seventy-Eight Thousand And Sixty-Five (N7,318,978,065.00) Naira only.”

The Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (retired) also reiterated his commitment to boosting revenue for the Federal Government and also tracking down criminals, especially illegal drug dealers.

He said, “The service is not only making concerted efforts to ensure that only maximum revenue is collected but also to safeguard the security and well-being of the citizenry.

“We are all aware of the dangers that the deliberate non-compliance to import and export procedures pose to our nation as importers bring in all manner of items which put the security and health of the nation at great risk.

“Terrorists, kidnappers and other criminal elements get hold of these goods such as controlled drugs to perpetrate their heinous activities.”

Speaking further, the customs boss decried a situation whereby some importers would induce officers of the service with lucrative money in a desperate move to import harmful products into the country.

He said, “Importers of this items offered bribes to the tune of N150 million to my officers to effect the release of just one container with promises of even bigger sums to follow in the event that, their first attempt succeeds.

“The Officers played along and eventually arrested three suspects with the money. Let me assure you that the on-going investigation will be thorough to bring all those remotely connected to justice.”

On the seized aircraft, Ali said the action violates Section 36 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA),Cap C45, LFN2004.

He explained that Investigations are on-going to fish out the owner(s) of the helicopter and the second aircraft, a Cessna 182A imported from the US.

Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Damaged As Floating Dock Sinks

A picture was taken on August 19, 2009, shows Russia’s aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in Murmansk. One person was missing and four others were injured on October 30, 2018, after a giant floating dock carrying Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov sunk at a shipyard near Russia’s Arctic city Murmansk. photo: Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP

 

Russia’s only aircraft carrier was damaged and a giant floating dock sank after a crane crashed onto the vessel as it was undergoing repairs near the Arctic city of Murmansk on Tuesday.

Four people were injured and one person is missing after the accident involving the Admiral Kuznetsov at the PD-50 floating dock, the largest in Russia one of the largest in the world, local authorities and media said.

“We are assessing the extent of the damage. A crane fell onto the deck from a height of about 15 meters (45 feet),” the head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation Alexei Rakhmanov told the TASS news agency.

“It is clear there is damage to the hull and the deck. Fortunately, it happened on those parts that are not vital to the work of the” ship.

Local media said the floating dock holding the vessel had sunk.

The accident occurred at 3:30 am at the repair shipyard near Murmansk, the governor of Murmansk region Marina Kovtun said in a video she posted on social media.

“Unfortunately, one person is still not found,” she said.

“Four workers were removed from the water with signs of frostbite and taken to a medical facility,” the regional branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement on its website.

It added that the accident could be the result of “violations in the operation” of ship repair facilities.

The Admiral Kuznetsov is undergoing its first major repairs since 1997. They are expected to be completed by the end of 2020 for the warship to rejoin the Russian Navy in 2021.

The vessel was deployed to the Mediterranean last year to strike targets in Syria and help Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad recapture rebel-held areas in the war-torn country.

AFP

Pilot Dies As NAF Aircraft Crash In Abuja

Scenes from the site of the aircrash

 

Two aircraft of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) have been involved in an accident.

This was disclosed on Friday in a statement signed by the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola.

Daramola said the air accident occurred during rehearsals for the Independence day celebrations.

“I wish to confirm an air incident involving 2 Nigerian Air Force aircraft taking part in the rehearsals for the 58th Independence Day Celebrations,” he said.

Daramola did not state if the accident was a collision or a crash.

READ ALSO: Minimum Wage: Unions Shut Down Operations At General Aviation Terminal Of Lagos Airport

One of the aircraft was reported to have gone up in flames before it eventually crashed.

The Nigerian Air Force in a different press release later on Friday announced the death of one of its pilots who was involved in an accident.

NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, made the announcement on Friday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I regretfully announce that one of the pilots who successfully ejected from one of the F-7Ni aircraft that crashed earlier today has passed on. May his soul RIP,” Daramola said.

Air Peace Gets New Boeing 777 Aircraft

Air Peace Aircraft Collide At Lagos Airport
File photo.

 

Nigeria’s domestic carrier, Air Peace airlines, has taken delivery of a Boeing 777-300 aircraft as part of plans to launch its long-haul operations.

Considered as one of the most advanced machines in the aviation industry, the aircraft which touched down at the Murtala Muhammed Airport on Monday, makes Air Peace the first Nigerian airline to own two of the wide-body jetliners in the country.

Its Chief Operating Officer, Oluwatoyin Olajide, said the expansion of routes by the airline will also create more employment opportunities for Nigerians.

Some of the new routes include: Houston, London, Dubai, Mumbai, China and Johannesburg.

First China-Made Aircraft Carrier Starts Sea Trials

 

First China-Made Aircraft Carrier Starts Sea Trials
China’s first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier, known only as “Type 001A”, leaves port in the northeast city of Dalian early on May 13, 2018. AFP Photo.

 

China’s first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier started sea trials Sunday, state media said, a landmark in Beijing’s ambitious plans to modernise its navy as the Asian giant presses its claims in disputed regional waters.

The carrier, known only as “Type 001A”, set out for the trials from a port in northeastern China at around 6.45 am (2245 GMT Saturday), according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Expected to be commissioned by 2020, the ship will give China a second aircraft carrier as it asserts its claims in the South China Sea and seeks to deter any independence movements in Taiwan.

Footage aired by CCTV showed the imposing carrier accompanied by several smaller military craft leaving a wharf and heading out to sea.

It is the first time the ship’s engine, propulsion and navigation systems will be tested at sea, state media said, a year after it first took to the water at its official launch.

AFP Photo

 

China’s sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is a repurposed Soviet ship bought from Ukraine, which went into service in 2012.

Neither the Liaoning or the new ship are nuclear powered, but both can carry around 40 planes and have similar “ski jump” ramps, an old launch system that forces aircraft to carry fewer weapons in order to hold more fuel for take-off.

The possession of a homegrown aircraft carrier — which the defence ministry has said displaces 55,000 tonnes — places China among the few military powers with such vessels, including the United States, Russia and Britain.

But it would still be no match in size or range to the nuclear-powered vessels of the United States Navy, which has 11 carriers.

China’s warships will enable it to “project its power and influence in its neighbourhood”, Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), told AFP.

Chinese state media have been speculating that a third aircraft carrier is in the works, but the defence ministry has yet to confirm this.

However, even with the potential development of further carriers, it could still be years before China’s navy is able to deploy its fleet effectively, said Tsang.

“With the Chinese carriers substantially inferior in capacity to the US super-carriers, the balance of forces between the two navies will only change marginally rather than substantially,” he said.

Territorial disputes

Beijing has embarked on an extensive project to build a “blue water” navy and modernise its two million-strong military, the world’s largest.

China’s defence budget rose 8.1 percent to 1.1 trillion yuan ($175 billion) in 2018, but it is still only about a quarter that of the United States.

The Liaoning has conducted a series of manoeuvres with dozens of other ships, submarines and aircraft in the South China Sea in recent weeks.

In March it sailed through the Taiwan Strait, prompting Taipei to dispatch ships and planes to track the vessel, on the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against what he called any attempts to split China.

Beijing sees democratically governed Taiwan as a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold and has not ruled out reunification by force.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have claims to the South China Sea, while Beijing also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.

The US, meanwhile, regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” naval operations near artificial islands in the South China Sea to challenges Beijing’s claims.

AFP