US sends carriers to South China Sea during Chinese drills

Asia World

WASHINGTON: The United States is sending two aircraft carriers into the South China Sea at the same time as China is conducting military exercises in the contested waterway, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz would be in the South China Sea from Saturday (Jul 4), the US news outlet quoted the strike group commander as saying.

“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” Rear Admiral George M Wikoff was quoted as saying.

He said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the Pentagon criticised this week as “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability”.

China dismissed the US criticism of its drills on Friday and suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions.

Wikoff did not give the location of the US exercises. The Wall Street Journal said they would be conducted by the two carriers and four other warships and would include round-the-clock flights.

China announced last week it had scheduled five days of drills starting Jul 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticised the planned Chinese drills, warning they could create tension in the region and impact Beijing’s relationship with its neighbours.

The United States accuses China of miniaturising the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.

China claims 90 per cent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about US$3 trillion of trade passes each year.

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