Two U.S. carriers groups conduct exercise in South China Sea amid tensions with China

South China Sea

Media reports said:

Two U.S. carrier strike groups have conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea. This new muscle flexing comes days after the U.S. buzzed China-controlled islets in the disputed waters, prompting anger from China.

The two groups, led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz aircraft carriers, trained in the South China Sea on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. The joint exercise in such a “highly trafficked area” was designed to “demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s ability to operate in challenging environments.”

“Through operations like this, we ensure that we are tactically proficient to meet the challenge of maintaining peace and we are able to continue to show our partners and allies in the region that we are committed to promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier group, Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo.

The massive exercise comes days after a U.S. destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, sailed past the Chinese controlled Paracel Islands in the first so-called “freedom of navigation” operation since new President Joe Biden took office.

The destroyer’s cruise has been condemned by Beijing as hostile, with China’s Foreign Ministry urging Biden’s administration to “play a constructive role for regional peace and stability” instead of stoking tensions.

“China will continue to maintain a high level of alert at all times, respond to all threats and provocations at all times, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the ministry’s spokesperson said.

The South China Sea has been a constant source of tensions between the U.S. and China for the past few years. Washington has repeatedly sent naval convoys into the region, justifying them with the supposed need to protect “freedom of navigation” in the area. The operations have resulted in multiple incidents between the Chinese and US militaries.

The resource-rich region of the South China Sea is the subject of overlapping territorial and maritime claims by multiple nations, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. The troubled seas are also an important international waterway, enjoying trillions of dollars’ worth of maritime traffic flowing through each year.

The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group and the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group “conducted a multitude of exercises aimed at increasing interoperability between assets as well as command and control capabilities”, the U.S. Navy said, marking the first dual carrier operations in the busy waterway since July 2020.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the frequent moves by U.S. warships and aircraft into the South China Sea in a “show of force” was not conducive to regional peace and stability.

“China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security and work with countries in the region to firmly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he said.

Last month, the U.S. military said Chinese military flights over the South China Sea fit a pattern of destabilizing and aggressive behavior but posed no threat to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group in the region.

“We are committed to ensuring the lawful use of the sea that all nations enjoy under international law,” Rear Admiral Jim Kirk, commander of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, said in a statement.

China has been infuriated by repeated U.S. sailings near the islands it occupies and controls in the South China Sea. China says it has irrefutable sovereignty and has accused the U.S. of deliberately stoking tension.

China has also been angered by U.S. warships sailing through the Taiwan Strait, including one last week, also the first such operation under the Biden administration.

Speaking in Taipei, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said U.S. ships and aircraft carrying out freedom of navigation operations was reassuring.

“This demonstrates the clear U.S. attitude towards challenges to the security status quo in the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.

China ready to ‘respond to all threats and provocations at any time’

A few days ago, China said it continues to monitor U.S. military maneuvers near the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, warning that China is ready to respond to U.S. threats and provocations.

Speaking on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters that Beijing had carefully followed the passing of a U.S. warship through the Taiwan Strait earlier that same day.

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain thundered through the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. Navy’s first trip through the waterway in 2021.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Seventh Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley said, describing the sail “routine” and “in accordance with international law.”

Beijing has repeatedly urged Washington to abide by the ‘one-China’ principle and not take actions that would damage Sino-U.S. relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Nevertheless, Taiwan maintains its independence from China and the new Biden administration has reiterated its “rock solid” commitment to the island’s defense.

Beijing has also called on the U.S. to desist from conducting military maneuvers in and around the disputed waters off China.

Just days after President Joe Biden took office, a US carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and three warships entered the South China Sea, marking a continuation of moves made during the Trump administration.

U.S. military in South China Sea ‘‘not conducive to peace’’, says China

Last month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has urged Washington against repeatedly undermining Beijing’s internal interests, notably U.S. military incursions into the South China Sea and supporting Taiwan’s independence.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, told reporters that Washington’s South East Asia policy was not conducive to “peace and stability” in the region.

“The united States frequently sends aircraft and vessels into the South China Sea to flex its muscles. This is not conducive to peace and stability in the region,” Zhao said.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson also contended that the U.S. should rethink its approach to Taiwan and refrain from sending any wrong signals to “Taiwan independence” movements.

Zhao urged Washington to abide by the one-China principle and not take actions that would damage Sino-U.S. relations, peace, and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

The comments come after a US carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and three warships entered the South China Sea.



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