US sends carrier to South China Sea after Beijing gives fire order
The US has dispatched an aircraft carrier group to the South China Sea, in a move that is set to escalate tensions after China authorized its coast guard to open fire on foreign vessels deemed to pose threats to its sovereignty.
According to reports, the US military said Sunday that the strike group, led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, entered the South China Sea on Saturday.
“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,” said commander of the strike group Doug Verissimo.
“With two-thirds of the world’s trade travelling 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,” he said.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, but Washington sides with China’s rival claimants in the sea, accusing Beijing of seeking to extend its sphere of influence in the region.
The United States routinely sends its warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls its right to “freedom of navigation.”
China has constantly warned Washington against military activities in the sea, saying that potential close military encounters by the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could easily trigger accidents.
The latest US deployment came after Taipei said Chinese warplanes, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, had entered Taiwan’s airspace.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to retake, by force if necessary, but a stepped-up US engagement in the dispute has escalated tensions, with Beijing warning against Washington's interference in its internal affairs.
Under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries including the US recognize China's sovereignty over Taiwan and refuse to have formal relations with Taipei.