US carrier group enters South China Sea amid tensions between China, Taiwan
A U.S. aircraft carrier group entered the South China Sea on Sunday with the stated intent to promote “freedom of the seas,” according to the U.S. military, as tensions between China and Taiwan continue to rise.
According to a statement released by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the USS Theodore Roosevelt is leading the group and is accompanied by the USS Bunker Hill, USS Russell and USS John Finn.
“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 Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo in the statement.
“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 added.
The carrier group entered the region the same day Taiwan reported the presence of Chinese bombers and fighter jets in its air defence identification zone, The Associated Press noted.
Taiwan responded to the China’s actions by scrambling fighters and broadcasting radio warnings, according to the AP, which added that the island nation also retaliated by “deploying air defense missile systems to monitor the activity.”
The AP notes that the Chinese overflights are part of a larger campaign to pressure Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen into recognizing Beijing’s claim over the island.
In a statement obtained by the AP, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.”
In one of his last moves as secretary of State, Mike Pompeo lifted restrictions on meetings between U.S. and Taiwanese officials, upending decades of self-imposed restrictions and likely drawing the ire of Beijing.
President Biden’s nominee for secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said during his Senate hearing that China posed “the most significant challenge” to the U.S.
Blinken also agreed with Pompeo’s assessment of China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority group as a “genocide” and called for rejoining international organizations in order to confront Beijing from a position of strength. He signaled support for investing in the U.S. military in order to deter Chinese aggression as well.