China reacted with outrage after a U.S. Navy carrier group sailed into the South China Sea just to show the world that it can.
The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group entered the South China Sea on Saturday, according to a Navy statement.
The carrier group “is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security, and conduct a wide range of operations,” the Navy said.
China did not see it that way.
“The United States frequently sends aircraft and vessels into the South China Sea to flex its muscles,” the communist country’s foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said, according to Reuters.
“This is not conducive to peace and stability in the region.”
China claims ownership of virtually all of the South China Sea, putting it in dispute with Japan, Vietnam and other Asian nations.
To put teeth in those claims, on the day before the carrier group entered the South China Sea, China gave its coast guard the green light to fire on foreign ships and destroy anything built on islands it claims, according to NBC News.
The Coast Guard Law, which China enacted Friday, approves of using force to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
The law had no apparent impact on the carrier group’s progress. As of Monday, no incidents had been reported.
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The importance of the carrier group’s mission was emphasized by Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Capt. Eric Anduze, USS Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer, said, “We all benefit from free and open access to the seas and our operations represent our commitment to maintaining regional security and stability. I’m incredibly proud of the work and professionalism this crew shows every day operating on the high seas.”
The carrier is accompanied by the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Russell and USS John Finn.
Zhao did not explain Monday what the planes were doing.
China believes that Taiwan, the island where the Chinese nationalist government took refuge in 1949 when the communists swept to power on the mainland, is rightfully its property. It opposes any recognition of the island’s government.
The U.S. does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but provides arms and support.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday praised the ability of one radar station on the island to track Chinese incursions, Reuters reported.
“From last year until now, our radar station has detected nearly 2,000 communist aircraft and more than 400 communist ships, allowing us to quickly monitor and drive them away, and fully guard the sea and airspace,” she said.
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