China is reportedly deploying aircraft carriers into war games in waters near Taiwan, sparking fresh fears an invasion may be imminent.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is sending two new warships to an area near the Pratas Islands.
The move is playing into concerns that the Chinese Government could be moving to take advantage of the current global crisis as tensions with the US continue to worsen.
As both nations continue to dispute the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, US-China relations have been growing increasingly tense.
Before heading into the war games, the aircraft carriers Liaoning and Shandong have been in Bohai Bay in the Yellow Sea on a combat readiness mission.
The move follows concerning comments from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who recently declared Beijing's desire to "reunify" with self-ruled Taiwan, an apparent shift in policy.
The aircraft carrier deployment also follows a US decision to impose sanctions on 33 Chinese companies for helping Beijing spy on its minority Uighur population or because of ties to weapons of mass destruction and China's military, according to The Daily Mail.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi warned on Friday that the sanctions would risk "a new Cold War," as tensions between both countries have escalated over the coronavirus outbreak, the Sun reports.
A report released last week by the Council on Foreign Relations, a political think tank, sees a possible military conflict between the US and China in the South China Sea likely in the next 18 months if "their relationship continues to deteriorate as a result of ongoing trade frictions and recriminations over the novel coronavirus pandemic."
Taiwan, meanwhile, has complained of increased Chinese military harassment since the coronavirus pandemic began, with fighter jets and naval vessels regularly approaching the island on drills China has described as "routine."
The news comes after Taipei's independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen swore in for her second term this week and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated her for the re-election in a move that infuriated the Chinese Communist Party.
China says Taiwan is its most sensitive and important territorial issue and has never renounced the use of force to bring what it views as a Chinese province under its control, making the Taiwan Strait a potential military flashpoint.
Li, in his state-of-the-nation work report at the start of the annual meeting of China's parliament, said his country would "resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence."