PLA Navy fleets attached to three of the Chinese military’s theatre commands have staged separate live-fire drills in recent days, state media reported. It the second such drills in just over a month, with observers seeing the exercises as part of efforts to counter US military challenges. State broadcaster CCTV reported on Monday that the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern, Northern and Southern Theatre Commands held military exercises as part of “a comprehensive test of the overall operational capability of a naval formation in the context of actual combat”. It did not specify when and where the drills were carried out. The drill by the Eastern Theatre Command – which oversees the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait – was involved with Type 052D guided-missile destroyers Zibo and Xiamen as well as Type 054A frigate the Anyang. The Type 056A corvette the Huangshi, with the Northern Theatre Command that oversees Bohai Bay and the Yellow Sea, also took part in a fire-strike training in the waters of the Yellow Sea. Meanwhile, a naval formation by Type 056A corvettes the Nanchong and the Wenshan with the Southern Theatre Command also took part in joint training on anti-missile defence and maritime assault, the report said. The PLA Navy started its annual training programme last month, and since then has held two live-fire drills by navy fleets attached to different theatre commands. It is part of Beijing’s efforts to create a combat-ready military force in the face of growing military pressure from the US over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea . Will the US’ new ‘floating naval base’ heighten tensions with China? The last naval live-fire exercises involving the three theatre commands were held in mid-April, and one similar drill was held last year in July. Song Zhongping, a military commentator based in Hong Kong and a former PLA instructor, said the coming together of three PLA fleets for fire-strike training would become more “common” amid growing challenges from the US. “The purpose of enhancing combat training is to train and prepare for war,” Song said. “This is not only about the rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait but also Washington’s hardening anti-China policy. “Tensions in Sino-US relations could flare up on several fronts and the PLA needs to be prepared for military conflicts.” Why China’s Communist Party maintains a tight grip on the military Earlier this week, the PLA said island landing drills had been conducted by its navy. Observers said these exercises were apparently targeting Taiwan , a self-ruled island that Beijing sees as part of its territory and vows to bring it under control, by force if needed, making it a possible military flashpoint between China and the US.