A US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has entered the South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas,” the US military said yesterday, as tensions between China and Taiwan raise concerns in Washington.
US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the strike group entered the South China Sea on Saturday, the same day Taiwan reported a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defense identification zone near the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島).
The US military said the carrier strike group was in the South China Sea, a large part of which is claimed by China, to conduct routine operations “to ensure freedom of the seas” and “build partnerships that foster maritime security.”
“After sailing through these waters throughout my 30-year career, it’s great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners,” US Navy Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, commander of the strike group, was quoted as saying.
“With two-thirds of the world’s trade traveling 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,” Verissimo said in the statement.
The announcement comes just days after US President Joe Biden was sworn in as US president.
Biden’s nominee for US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the US of any nation.
The Theodore Roosevelt was 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, the US statement said.
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