TWO U.S. aircraft carriers are conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the Navy has said.
The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific" as China conducts its own drills.
The Navy did not say exactly where the exercises were being conducted in the South China Sea, which extends for some 900 miles and 90 per cent of which is claimed by China.
"The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability," Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff.
Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the Ronald Reagan, insisted the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Pentagon has criticised the Beijing’s drills as "counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability".
China dismissed the criticism suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions.
U.S. carriers have long carried out exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, according to the U.S. Navy.
At one point recently, the United States had three carriers in the region.
China announced last week it had scheduled five days of drills starting July 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.
Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticised the planned Chinese exercises, warning they could create tension in the region and impact Beijing's relationship with its neighbours.
What is the dispute in the South China Sea about?
China lays claim to vast swathes of ocean and many islands – but some parts are also claimed by the likes of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.
The dispute centres around legal claims to ocean areas and two island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys, which are thought to be abundant in natural resources.
Every year some £3.8 trillion of trade passes through the dispute area and the United States has been joined by Australia, the UK and France in sailing warships through it to assert freedom of navigation
China has engaged in a massive military build-up in the area, creating a network of artificial islands, which it uses to assert its territorial claim.
It claims that these are part of its national coastline but the United States and the Philippines say that doesn't apply to artificial islands.
China's claim to a 12 mile territorial limit around the islands is not internationally recognised.
Warships from the United States and China have been engaged in tense stand-offs which have threatened to escalate into conflict in the disputed seas.
In January 2019, China reacted with fury after the US sent a missile destroyer through the disputed waters in a direct challenge to Beijing.
China responded by scrambling warships and aircraft to intercept the ship, which sailed within a dozen miles of the increasingly-militarised Paracel Island chain.
The United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
Beijing claims it owns most of the disputed patch of ocean but Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei all claim rights to their own chunks under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The convention states that nations’ claims to the waters around them must be measured from land.
To thwart this, Beijing has been building man-made islands on top of coral reefs in the middle of the South China Sea for years, before using them as military bases – despite promising not to.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused China of using the Covid-19 pandemic to assert control of the region and flex its military muscles.
Source: Read Full Article