A major Chinese naval drill in the South China Sea and beyond targeted no one; its commander told state media on Friday. Rear Admiral Zhou Xuming, vice-commander of the South Sea Fleet and commander of the strike group, said media speculation about the drill involving some of China’s most advanced warships were “misunderstandings” as the exercise was aimed at “improving the capability and quality of the troops”. Chinese naval group heads to disputed South China Sea for combat drill “We … do not target at any particular heated spot or region,” Zhou was quoted by China News Agency as saying on the drill. “It is only our fleet’s regular training, an annual routine,” he said. A strike group of three guided-missile destroyers, two frigates and a supply ship, in addition to submarine and aircraft carrier of the South Sea Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army Navy have been conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, as well as the western Pacific Ocean and eastern Indian Ocean since the beginning of this month. The drill attracted international attention amid the US military’s increasing sea patrol and flyover in the disputed region, while China expedited construction of its facilities and arms deployments in the islands. The group had sailed 8,000 nautical miles through six important straits over the past 23 days, Zhou said. US and Japanese warships keep close watch on Chinese navy combat drill It led a garrison to conduct an attack and defence exercise off Subi Reef. The ships patrolled six other Chinese-controlled reefs in the Spratly Islands, including the Fiery Cross Reef only a day before the US guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence navigated within 12 nautical miles of it. It also conducted live-fire combat drills under the close surveillance of the US and Japanese navy vessels in the western part of the Pacific Ocean.