PLA warships led by China’s sole aircraft carrier are testing weapons and equipment in exercises this week in the South China Sea, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday. Exercises by PLA ships, in particular the aircraft carrier Liaoning, since last month have unnerved China’s neighbours, especially at a time of heightened strain with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, and given long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China says the Soviet-built Liaoning and other ships conduct routine exercises that comply with international law. “The Liaoning aircraft carrier group in the South China Sea is carrying out scientific research and training, in accordance with plans,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “The purpose is to test the performance of weapons and equipment,” he said. The PLA Navy said on its official microblog this week that the aircraft carrier conducted drills in the South China Sea with its fighters and helicopters.