China party paper says no 'provocation' can stop its military drills

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's military will carry out drills regardless of foreign provocations and pressure, the Communist Party's paper said on Sunday, adding that exercises far out at sea like those conducted recently by its sole aircraft carrier will become normal. China caused unease among some countries in the region last month when the carrier the Liaoning, accompanied by several warships, cruised around self-ruled Taiwan and into the Pacific for what China called routine drills. Earlier this month, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets and navy ships as the Liaoning then passed through the narrow waterway separating China from the island Beijing claims as its own.For its part, China was alarmed this month when U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state Rex Tillerson said China should be denied access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea. The People's Daily said no amount of "word bombs", such as Tillerson's South China Sea remarks, could stop China's military drills. "These provocations, pressure, fantasies and over-exaggerations will not prevent the normal drills of the Chinese military," the paper said in a commentary. "The meddling and disruption of countries from outside the region can only run counter to the consensus of common interests that accords with this region and the world," it added. "Henceforth, the Chinese military's exercises far out at sea will become a kind of normal, extremely normal drills," the paper said. China has invested billions of dollars in an ambitious military modernization program, especially its navy. The Chinese navy has been exercising in waters far from home more often as it seeks to hone its operational abilities, and it has joined international anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia. In 2015, five Chinese ships carried out exercises in international waters in the Bering Sea off the U.S. state of Alaska. China says it has a legitimate need to develop its "blue water" naval capabilities to protect the trade lanes on which the country's economy depends, to defend the interests of its citizens overseas and uphold its global obligations. In 2015, a Chinese naval frigate evacuated foreign citizens from strife-torn Yemen, marking the first time that China's military has helped other countries evacuate their people during an international crisis. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)