Carrier strike group enters operation in South China Sea

(CNN) — A US aircraft carrier strike group began operating in the South China Sea on Thursday, the Navy announced, amid rising tensions with Beijing, which claims much of the body of water as its sovereign territory.

Two Chinese vessels already follow the US group, a defense official told CNN, which consists of an aircraft carrier, a guided-missile cruiser and three guided-missile destroyers.

aircraft carrier strike group china sea

The USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, which has lethal and non-lethal capabilities “from space to sea, in all axes and in all domains,” according to its commanding officer, entered the South China Sea for the first time as part of your current deployment.

The deployment comes as the US military reinforces its presence in the region with the intention of deterring China, which is carrying out a rapid modernization and expansion of its own military and nuclear capabilities.

This week, the US and Japan announced a strengthened US Marine presence on Okinawa, who will have advanced intelligence and anti-ship capabilities. The two allies also announced a series of initiatives aimed at bringing their militaries closer in the face of what they see as China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

“We share with Japan the common vision of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, and everything we are doing is moving in that direction,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday. , and their Japanese counterparts in Washington.

Three weeks ago, a Chinese J-11 fighter intercepted a US RC-135 reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea in what the US called an “unsafe maneuver”. The RC-135 Rivet Joint was forced into an evasive maneuver, according to the United States, when the Chinese plane came within 6 meters of the larger and slower reconnaissance plane.

The People’s Liberation Army countered with its own version of the situation, claiming that it was the US plane that had “abruptly changed its flight attitude” with a “dangerous approach manoeuvre”, despite the fact that a Chinese military video did not showed nothing like it.

The meeting highlighted the tensions inherent in the South China Sea, where Beijing has used its own militarized artificial islands to push for acceptance of sovereignty not recognized by the United States or its allies.

The Chinese Navy closely monitors US warships operating in the South China Sea, even claiming at times that it has expelled US vessels after they left disputed waters.

In November, China claimed it had forced the USS Chancellorsville to leave the South China Sea after it “illegally entered” the waters without Beijing’s approval, proving that “the United States is a real security risk generator.” ” in the region.

The US responded sharply, calling the Chinese version “false” and “the latest in a long series of actions (by the PRC) to misrepresent US lawful maritime operations and enforce its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense of its Southeast Asian neighbours”.

The US guided-missile cruiser was operating in the South China Sea as part of a freedom of navigation operation under international law, the Navy said.

“All nations, large and small, must be secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and capable of pursuing economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms,” ​​the United States declared at the time.

— Haley Britzky contributed to this reporting.

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