The Chinese navy's sole aircraft carrier set sail Tuesday from the northern port of Qingdao amid great tension between Beijing and its neighbors over maritime disputes.

This is the first overseas mission for the Liaoning since it was commissioned last year, the carrier's skipper, Zhang Zheng, told the official news agency Xinhua.

This is a routine maneuver on its training schedule and was planned some time ago, Xinhua said.

Accompanying the Liaoning carrier are two destroyers and two frigates.

The mission comes amid a new diplomatic conflict between Beijing and Tokyo after China established an air defense zone over the East China Sea that includes the disputed islands of Diaoyu/Senkaku.

In the South China Sea, Beijing is at odds with the Philippines and Vietnam over the Spratly and Paracel islands.

On the mission, the Liaoning will test its equipment and the preparedness of its crew, while testing the carrier in different weather conditions, Capt. Zhang told Xinhua reporters embedded with the mission. EFE