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Earlier this month, Taiwan announced that a Chinese aircraft had crashed in the South China Sea. As of now, Beijing appears to be concealing rescue efforts from the crash by claiming it is a military exercise.

Unofficially reported on, the plane that crashed near Hainan Island on March 1 was a Shaanxi Y-8 air control aircraft. A Chinese rescue operation began shortly after the crash.

China’s Maritime Safety Administration announced an extensive military exercise in the same area as a result. The exercise began on March 4 and ran through March 15.

In conjunction with satellite images, data from auto-identification systems from nearby ships revealed an increased presence of vessels belonging to China’s People’s Liberation Army, as well as its Coast Guard. In this military exercise, the Navy employed the research ships Tansuo-1 and Tansuo-2, which can dive deep underwater. The slow movement of the ships may indicate an attempt to explore the surface of the water, disguised as a routine military practice.

On its part, Vietnam has criticized Chinese military exercises, calling on China to respect and refrain from violating agreements relating to the Exclusive economic zone of Vietnam (EEZ). Vietnamese territorial sovereignty has been maintained in the South China Sea despite Chinese claims of ownership.