United States military planes and helicopters ran exercises and simulated sustained bombing runs in the South China Sea in what one US naval commander described as an “unambiguous” show of force.
The military exercises took place throughout the weekend as the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz staged hundreds of launches of strike fighters, surveillance planes, and other military aircraft. The demonstration took place simultaneously with military exercises by China’s People Liberation Army, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The US war exercises were held in the South China Sea, a disputed region that China is encroaching further over in an effort to expand its territory.
“Because of the high state of our global readiness right now we have the opportunity to extend operations with another carrier,” Rear Adm. George M. Wikoff, told WSJ. “To me, that is quite unusual to do this amount of time working together as a carrier strike force in this theater.”
Wikoff, who commands the strike group led by USS Ronald Reagan, said the exercises would “show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability.”
The Chinese military held its own exercise around the South China Sea’s Paracel Islands, where China has military installments, according to the BBC. The islands are disputed territory, with Vietnam and Taiwan also claiming ownership.
The South China Sea has remained a disputed zone for centuries with the surrounding countries claiming whole or part ownership over sections of the water. Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam have all made claims over regions of the sea.
Wikoff did not specify where the United States held its exercises in the South China Sea and said that the trials were not in response to China’s own plans to conduct military exercises. The rear admiral did say, however, that China’s aggressive posturing in the region justified the show of force, according to WSJ.
“I think it really helps and serves to validate our operations out here in this region,” Wikoff said.
The flashy US Independence Day exercises come as tensions between the US and China have risen, in large part over the Trump administration’s decision to force renegotiations on trade deals. US national security officials are also warning that China’s attempts to build information infrastructure internationally through technology companies such as Huawei is a ploy to expand its surveillance capabilities.
The United Kingdom is reportedly considering dropping a contract with Huawei over security concerns and because of China’s refusal to fully cooperate with other nations throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan sometime late last year. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to pursue the contract in January led to furious reactions from US security officials who threatened to withhold sensitive intelligence from the British government in response.
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