Two US aircraft carriers were yesterday conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the US Department of Defense and neighboring states.
China and the US have accused each other of stoking tension in the waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from COVID-19 to trade to Hong Kong.
The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement.
It did not say exactly where the exercises were being conducted in the South China Sea, which extends for about 1,500km and 90 percent of which is claimed by China, despite the protests of its neighbors.
Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which about US$3 trillion of trade passes each year.
“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” US Rear Admiral George Wikoff was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the exercises.
Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the Ronald Reagan, said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the department criticized this week as “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability.”
China dismissed the US criticism of its drills on Friday and said the US was to blame for increasing tensions.
US carriers have long carried out exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, according to the US Navy. At one point recently, the US had three carriers in the region.
China last week announced that it had scheduled five days of drills starting on Wednesday near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島), which are claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and China.
Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticized the Chinese drills, saying that they could create tension in the region and affect Beijing’s relations with its neighbors.
The US has accused China of trying to intimidate neighbors who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
The US statement said the naval exercises gave commanders the flexibility and capabilities “that only the US Navy can command.”
Separately yesterday, Taiwan’s Air Force Command Headquarters reported that a Chinese fighter briefly entered the nation’s airspace, before leaving after radio warnings were issued.
There is no cause for alarm, the air force said, adding that it is closely monitoring the airspace and waters around Taiwan.
Additional reporting by CNA
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South