US Navy aircraft carriers return to the South China Sea

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The USS Ronald and the USS Nimitz transport strike groups, including more than 12,000 American soldiers among the two aircraft carriers and their escort cruisers and destroyers, were operating in the South China Sea on Friday, the American Pacific Fleet announced in a press release.

The two carriers, with more than 120 planes deployed between them, were carrying out tactical air defense exercises “to maintain the readiness and competence of the war,” the statement said.

“The strike force of two aircraft carriers trains at the highest level of preparation to ensure reactivity to any eventuality thanks to the projection of power,” he said.

The presence of the Nimitz and Reagan in the South China Sea at the beginning of the month marked the first time that two American aircraft carriers have operated there since 2014 and only the second time since 2001.

This exercise began on July 4 and Lt. Cmdr. On July 8, Sean Brophy aboard the Reagan declared that “each strike group continues its respective operational tasks”.Photos posted on the U.S. Navy website placed the Reagan attack group in the Indian Ocean July 10-14.

China protests US Navy activities

China, which claims almost all of the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea as sovereign territory, reacted severely to the presence of carriers in the region in early July.

“American action is aimed at widening the gap between countries, promoting the militarization of the South China Sea and undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the spokesman said. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian.

Tensions have increased since then, with Washington classifying most of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea this week as illegal.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands by our allies and partners in Southeast Asia to protect their sovereign rights over offshore resources, in accordance with their rights and obligations under international law, “said the Secretary of State for M Mike Pompeo said in a long press release.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington described the charges as “totally unjustified”.

The United States “distorts the facts and international law … exaggerates the situation in the region and tries to sow discord between China and other coastal countries,” the embassy said in a statement.

A day after Pompeo’s announcement, an American missile destroyer sailed near the Chinese-claimed Spratly Islands, also known as Nansha Islands in China. This decision has been described as a “freedom of navigation” operation, part of the US navy’s commitment to assert “the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging the restrictions on innocent passage “, Cmdr. Reann Mommsen, spokesman for the Navy 7th Fleet, told CNN in a statement.

“Illicit and extensive maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to freedom of the seas, including freedoms of navigation and overflight, unimpeded free trade and commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for the nations of the South China Sea coast, “Mommsen told me.

The Navy used similar language on Friday when the two carriers found themselves in the South China Sea.

“Nimitz and Reagan Carrier Strike Groups operate in the South China Sea, where international law allows, to strengthen our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, a rules-based international order, and to our allies and partners in the region, “said Rear Admiral Jim Kirk, commander of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, said in a statement.

The latest deployment was in reaction to none of the policies last week, according to the Navy statement.

“The presence of two carriers in the South China Sea does not respond to specific political or global events, but is part of regular integration to exercise and develop tactical interoperability. For more than 75 years, the US Navy has operated strike carrier operations in the region, “the statement said.

However, China will likely see things differently.

The exercises earlier this month posed a veiled threat to US forces in the state-sponsored Global Times, which called American carriers “nothing more than paper tigers at the gates of China” and said Beijing had more than enough firepower to defend its positions in the south. China Sea.

“The South China Sea is fully within the reach of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and any movement of American aircraft carriers in the region is closely monitored and targeted by the PLA, which has a wide range anti-aircraft weapons such as the DF-21D and the DF-26, both of which are considered aircraft carrier killer missiles, “says the Global Times report.

But Kirk said the interactions between the strike groups of the US aircraft carriers and the Chinese navy were routine.

He said that Chinese warships were monitoring the American exercises, but that the operations were professional and safe.

“We certainly saw the PLA navy and they saw us,” said Kirk.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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