The PLA Navy launched four days of exercises in the East China Sea yesterday - part of a new round of sabre-rattling by Beijing coinciding with anniversary of Japan's defeat in the second world war.
The military muscle-flexing came as Beijing vented anger over the decision by top-level Japanese politicians to visit a Tokyo shrine commemorating Japan's war dead, including several war criminals.
China's first aircraft carrier - the refurbished Soviet-era warship now called Liaoning - was also dispatched from its home port of Qingdao, Shandong province, for training of ship-borne aircraft and other manoeuvres, China News Service reported yesterday.
Mainland media speculated the ship might be sailing to the northern Bohai Sea off Liaoning province, where a separate round of military exercises began yesterday.
The exercises in the Bohai and East China seas come against the backdrop of the territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands. The East China Sea drills will be conducted off the coast of Zhejiang province by the East Sea Fleet, which oversees the waters around the Diaoyus.
Meanwhile, a China Coast Guard vessel passed close by a Japan Coast Guard ship, just south of the chain's largest island, Kyodo News reported.
The moves coincided with two Japanese cabinet ministers' visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo yesterday, which drew fury from Beijing. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided against a personal visit, and instead paid for a ritual offering.
Ni Lexiong, director of the Sea Power and Defence Policy Research Institute at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the PLA aimed to pressure Tokyo into not inflaming tensions.
"It is expected that there will be more drills in the East China Sea to build up the combat capabilities of the Chinese army," Ni said. "It is also possible that China's aircraft carrier will participate in some of these drills."
Mainland media called on Tokyo to learn a lesson from history. An editorial in the Global Times said the Japanese "do not necessarily have a complete plan to become extreme, but they hope to change the current state of affairs".
"What Japan is doing today makes us wonder if it will commit the same error again," it said. "Japan is tempering itself using nationalism and attempting to boost national cohesion."
A commentary by Xinhua said the international community should exert pressure on Tokyo to "face history".
"It is a day when righteousness defeats the devil, and civilisation defeats the barbaric," it said. "It is a day when we should remember the lessons, and pray for a peaceful world and that no war will happen again."