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A PLA Navy fleet in the South China Sea. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

China's air force announced in a statement on Saturday that it conducted take-off and landing training for nuclear-strike capable bombers on unidentified islands in the South China Sea, per The Guardian.

Why it matters: The South China Sea — and who exactly controls it — is one of the most hotly contested issues between the United States and China, and the U.S. has threatened consequences for increased activity in the area.

  • The U.S. response: Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement: "China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”

The big picture: A third of world trade passes through the area — and billions of barrels of oil are beneath the seabed. China's claim, which lies within a boundary it calls the "nine-dash line," includes about 80 percent of the South China Sea. An international tribunal has rejected the scope of that claim, but its ruling is unenforceable and China ignores it.

Other tensions in the South China Sea:

Another issue: Similarly, China and Japan both lay claim to islands they believe essential to their security interests in the East China Sea.

  • This month, Beijing and Tokyo established a military hotline this month to ensure a close working relationship as tensions surrounding U.S. trade and foreign policy grew.

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

6 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.