The US military on Friday said that Chinese military flights in the past week in the South China Sea fit a pattern of destabilizing and aggressive behavior by Beijing, but posed no threat to a US Navy aircraft carrier strike group in the region.
“The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group closely monitored all People’s Liberation Army Navy and Air Force activity, and at no time did they pose a threat to US Navy ships, aircraft, or sailors,” the US military’s Pacific Command said in a statement.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chinese aircraft did not come within 250 nautical miles (463km) of the US Navy vessels.
Photo: AFP/US Navy/Conner D. Blake/Handout
Taiwan reported that several Chinese air force aircraft flew into the southwestern corner of its air defense identification zone last weekend, near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), including fighter jets and nuclear-capable H-6 bombers.
Regional security and diplomatic sources familiar with the situation said China’s air force was dispatched on missions beginning mid-morning on Saturday last week, coinciding with the US carrier group passing south of the Pratas Islands.
China, which has long geared its military toward defending itself against the US, was conducting exercises that would simulate an operation against an aircraft carrier, the sources said.
“They purposely conducted the drills when the US carrier was passing through the Bashi Channel,” one source said, referring to the waterway between southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines.
“That was not just meant for Taiwan. Most importantly, China is trying to tackle the issue of the South China Sea: It wants to stop the US military from entering the South China Sea. China wants to diminish the United States’ weight in the western Pacific,” the source said.
The sources spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The Chinese Ministry of National Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday, the ministry toughened its language toward Taiwan, warning after last weekend’s stepped-up military activity near the nation that “independence means war,” and that its armed forces were acting in response to “provocation” and foreign interference.
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