BEIJING (Reuters) - China's navy held its first drill simulating the resupply of missiles in a combat environment in the Yellow Sea, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday, the latest sign of the country's growing military prowess.
The live-fire exercises, involving ships, aircraft and land-based forces, featured the firing of missiles, torpedoes and shells, some of which were new models, the ministry said in a statement on its website.
They were fired to intercept surface, underwater and airborne targets, and the drill "for the first time organized a maritime missile combat resupply exercise", it added, without giving details.
China has ramped up defense spending to modernize its forces, the world's largest, which are gaining experience in operating far from its coast.
In a May defense strategy paper, China vowed to continue growing its "open seas protection" and criticized neighbors who take "provocative actions" on its reefs and islands.
China has almost finished building a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) airstrip on one of its artificial islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, new satellite photographs of the area show.
China wants to develop an ocean-going "blue water" navy capable of defending the growing interests of the world's second-largest economy as it adopts a more assertive stance in territorial disputes with neighbors in the South and East China seas.
China's increasingly assertive moves to press sovereignty claims have rattled the region and aroused concern in Washington, although the country says it has no hostile intent.
China has overlapping claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
China and Japan are also in dispute over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie