US Navy aircraft carriers back in South China Sea
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|The Nimitz Carrier Strike Force composed of the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups conduct dual carrier operations in the South China Sea in early July. (Photo: CNN)|
Two US Navy aircraft carriers, USS Ronald and USS Nimitz, have resumed their dual exercises in the South China Sea (called Bien Dong Sea in Vietnam), following their first operation in the waters earlier this month.
More than 12,000 US military personnel among the two aircraft carriers and their escorting cruisers and destroyers, were operating in the South China Sea as of Friday (July 17), the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
The two carriers, with more than 120 aircraft deployed between them, were conducting tactical air defense drills "to maintain warfighting readiness and proficiency," the statement said.
"The two-carrier strike force trains to the highest levels of readiness to ensure responsiveness to any contingency through power projection," it said.
The presence of the Nimitz and Reagan in the South China Sea earlier this month marked the first time two US aircraft carriers have operated together there since 2014 and only the second time since 2001, CNN reported.
|An F/A-18E Super Hornet flies over the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea on July 4, 2020. (Photo: CNN)|
That exercise began on July 4 and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Brophy aboard the Reagan said on July 8 that "each strike group continues on its respective operational tasking."
It was planned for a long time but only after China conducted military exercises near the it-caused-disputed Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands.
"The exercise provides advanced training opportunities for our forces and provides combatant commanders with significant operational flexibility should those forces be called upon in response to regional situations," CNN quoted spokesman Joe Jeiley of the US Navy's 7th Fleet as saying.
"The presence of two carriers is not in response to any political or world events. This advanced capability is one of many ways the U.S. Navy promotes security, stability, and prosperity throughout the Indo-Pacific," Jeiley
Meanwhile, the second exercise followed the US’s statement of its position on maritime claims in the South China Sea on July13.
|US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Photo: The New York Times)|
US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.
“As such, the United States rejects any PRC maritime claim in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei’s EEZ, and Natuna Besar (off Indonesia).”
He stressed that any action conducted by China to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters – or to carry out such activities unilaterally – is unlawful.
China says UN undermining South China Sea stability
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a recent news briefing that the US was undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea and intended to drive a wedge between regional countries, according to Xinhua.
The US statement disregarded the history and facts on the South China Sea issue, and violated its commitment of holding a neutral position on relevant territorial sovereignty disputes. It also violated and distorted international law, deliberately provoked territorial maritime disputes, and undermined regional stability and peace, he added.
|Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian (Photo: Chinadaily)|
China doesn't strive to build an "empire" in the South China Sea, always treats countries surrounding the South China Sea as equals, and always maintains the utmost restraint in safeguarding the sovereignty, rights, and interests of the South China Sea, Zhao said.
The US hyped up the South China Sea arbitration for their own political agenda, which was abusing the international law of the sea, and China would never accept it, he said.
The US as a non-regional country, has repeatedly stirred up trouble regarding the South China Sea for its own selfish agenda, played off the relationships of regional countries against China, and ruined the joint efforts made by these countries.
"China expressed its strong indignation and firm opposition to the U.S. wrongdoing," he said, urging the US to immediately stop making trouble in this regard, and not to go further down the wrong path./.
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