A US naval strike group entered South China Sea the same day
as 15 Chinese air force planes intruded into Taiwanese airspace.
A US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has entered the South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas”, the US military said on Sunday, at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan have raised concern in Washington, reported Reuters.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement the strike group entered the South China Sea on Saturday, the same day Taiwan reported a large incursion of eight Chinese bombers and four fighter jets into its air defense identification zone in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands.
The US. military said the carrier strike group was in the South China Sea, a large part of which is claimed by China, to conduct routine operations “to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security.”
“After sailing through these waters throughout my 30-year career, it’s great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners,” Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of the strike group, was quoted as saying.
“With two-thirds of the world’s trade travelling through this very important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote the rules-based order which has allowed us all to prosper,” Verissimo maintained in the statement.
The announcement comes just days after US President Joe Biden was sworn into office and in turn, the Chinese actions are being seen as a challenge to the new administration.
Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, told his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation.
That seems to follow the policy of former President Donald Trump, under whose stewardship relations between Washington and Beijing reportedly hit their nadir. Trump levied sanctions on China for its military adventurism, consistent violations of Taiwan’s airspace and a brutal crackdown of democracy in formerly semi-autonomous Hong Kong.
China has repeatedly complained about US Navy ships getting close to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims.