The Chinese military on Wednesday began a week of live ammunition training in the East China Sea , against a backdrop of escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the US and Japan holding joint drills in the region. The first day of the weapons training, which was announced by the maritime safety authority, coincided with the final day of Chinese military training in the South China Sea , which had begun on Sunday. Experts said that it was designed to counter recent US-Japan joint drills in the disputed South China Sea. The USS Carl Vinson and its strike group had been in the contested waters for exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force’s JS Kaga, carrying out flight operations, coordinated tactical training between surface and air units, and maritime strike exercises, the US Navy said last week. That was the ninth time this year that an American carrier strike group had operated in the disputed waters, according to Beijing-based think tank the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative. The think tank said that in October, the frequency of reconnaissance operations grew during visits by the Vinson and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth strike group, with the US military conducting 52 reconnaissance flights. “Our military exercises are strongly targeted,” Chinese military commentator Song Zhongping said. With cooperation between the United States and Japan becoming frequent and normalised, he said, “China’s military exercises are actually preparing for fighting”. The training by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also came with tensions high over Taiwan, after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen for the first time confirmed the US military’s presence on the self-ruled island to train its troops, and with the US showing increased support for Taiwan’s participation on the international stage. Beijing views Taiwan as its territory, to be brought into its fold by force if necessary. The PLA sent nearly 200 aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone for exercises during October. Also last month, a US Navy ship transited the Taiwan Strait, the 10th time an American military vessel had done so since Joe Biden became president in January. South China Sea: the dispute that could start a military conflict “Our current military exercises in various sea areas strongly connect with the situation in the Taiwan Strait,” Song said. Another military expert close to the PLA in Beijing said that the drills in the East China Sea were not necessarily aimed at countering the US-Japan exercises directly, but showed Beijing’s determination and capability in safeguarding its territory. “The frequency of military exercises in the eastern waters is increasing,” he said, adding that, given the complex security situation in the western Pacific, the live-fire drills were designed to show that “the capability of China’s naval and air forces to conduct actual combat is on the rise”.