Pacific Now Bristling with Warships as US, Chinese and Russian Forces Appear
As an indication of the region’s strategic importance, U.S., Chinese and Russian warships have been patrolling and drilling in the western Pacific in recent days.
The drills come amid a backdrop of speculation that war is approaching.
“We are taking the Chinese military threat very seriously … I think 2027 is the year that we need to be serious about,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said last week, according to the U.K.’s Guardian.
In January, Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, head of U.S. Air Mobility Command, wrote in a memo, “My gut tells me will fight in 2025,” according to NBC News.
With those predictions as a backdrop, competing nations drilled in the Pacific to prepare.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, American deployments included the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, which recently stopped in Japan, as well as the USS Nimitz strike group, which was cruising the South China Sea.
Last week, the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius cruised through the contested Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from China. China has demanded any foreign warships get its blessing before entering the strait.
The Milius “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit April 16 (local time) through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the 7th Fleet said in a statement.
“The ship transited through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State. Milius’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows,” the statement said.
In addition to the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group in the middle Pacific, the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group took part in exercises in the Sulu Sea.
The Americans were not alone.
Two Chinese aircraft carriers — the Liaoning and the Shandong — patrolled the western Pacific, according to Frontier India. The site said the patrols and exercises marked the first time China has stationed two aircraft carriers in the western Pacific.
2. Chinese media is reporting that the Liaoning aircraft carrier is operating in the Western Pacific, in addition to the Shandong CSG.
*If* this reporting is true, it would be the first time 2 Chinese aircraft carriers were operating in the Pacific together at the same time. pic.twitter.com/6w7n3ikazo
— Ian Ellis (@ianellisjones) April 23, 2023
As of last week, Russian military assets also were in the region, according to The Associated Press.
The full Russian Pacific fleet — 167 warships, including 12 submarines, 89 aircraft and 25,000 troops — participated. Russian bombers joined in to simulate bombing central Pacific targets.
One China expert said he worries a spark will ignite a conflict for which the United States is not prepared.
“When you have China engaging in dangerous intercepts of the U.S. and other militaries in the region, anything can happen. And we have a military that is not prepared to deal with the probable scenarios,” Gatestone Institute senior fellow Gordon Chang told Fox Business.
“General Mike Minahan on that January 27th leaked memo talked about war with China in 2025,” Chang said. “Well, it could very well be before that.”
“The real issue here, though, is you’ve got two militaries, the American and the Chinese, operating in close proximity to each other, and anything can happen,” he said.
Chang disputed President Joe Biden’s policy approach to China.
“We should not be engaging in these business transactions with China because we know they’re using the proceeds to build a military which is configured to fight Americans. This is a Chinese military that knows it should not go to war, but it emotionally wants to go to war,” he said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.