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Iran Press TV

Military activities intensify in South China Sea amid heightened US-China tensions

Iran Press TV

Monday, 12 April 2021 2:02 PM

Military activities in the South China Sea have intensified in recent days with the US Navy expeditionary strike group conducting exercises there, followed by the entry of a Chinese aircraft carrier.

China's state-run Global Times on Sunday said the country's first aircraft carrier Liaonin sailed into the South China Sea after holding exercises in waters east of the island of Taiwan for about a week.

The report said the aircraft carrier task group of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy made the move in response to the US carrier strike group and an amphibious ready group's "provocative exercises" in the region.

A CNN report said the expeditionary strike group, fronted by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, conducted exercises in the South China Sea a day before the Chinese Navy made foray there.

The two flat-top warships were joined by a cruiser, destroyers and smaller amphibious ships, it said, adding that the ships also carried hundreds of Marine ground forces from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit as well as their supporting helicopters and F-35 fighter jets.

"This expeditionary strike force fully demonstrates that we maintain a combat-credible force, capable of responding to any contingency, deter aggression, and provide regional security and stability in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific," US Navy Capt. Stewart Bateshansky, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 3, said in a statement.

Deeming the US drills as "provocations", Global Times quoted a Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu saying that the PLA carrier exercises can establish wider maritime defensive positions, safeguard China's coastal regions, and keep US military activities in check.

Song said that the US' moves were aimed at deterring the PLA, and maintaining US' global hegemony with the South China Sea and over the island of Taiwan, where the two sides have been embroiled in deepening tensions.

If a military conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, the US will likely rally its allies and confront China also in the Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea, which is a worst-case scenario for the PLA, said the military analyst.

"But the PLA is prepared, as shown in many of its exercises that took place in all major Chinese sea areas simultaneously featuring joint operations of multiple military branches," Song asserted.

'Respect for China-Philippines dialogue'

On Sunday, Beijing had called on Washington to stop its "provocative moves" in the South China Sea region, demanding that the US respect China's peaceful dialogue with the Philippines concerning regional issues.

It came after the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed concern over the presence of Chinese fishing vessels in the South China Sea territory of Niu'e Jiao, which is part of China's Nansha Island.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, in response to Blinken's remarks, said the reef and waters around it have always been a key fishing ground and shelter for Chinese fishermen.

"Any US attempts to use the illegal and invalid ruling from the South China Sea Arbitration Tribunal to deny China's legitimate rights in the South China Sea will not succeed," he was quoted saying by Beijing-based CGTN news network.

The Chinese official also said the situation in the region is generally stable and that Beijing has maintained close communication with the Philippines on the South China Sea issue.

Meanwhile, the US and Philippines are reportedly preparing for joint drills as the US secretary of defense proposed ways to deepen military cooperation between Washington and Manila, in an apparent provocation.

US 'guidelines' on Taiwan

The US State Department on Friday issued new guidelines to enable American officials to meet more freely with their Taiwanese counterparts in a bid to enhance ties with the island territory claimed by China.

"These new guidelines liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan, consistent with our unofficial relations," State Department spokesman Ned Price declared in a statement, adding that the objective was "to encourage US government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship."

The announcement came amid escalating between the two countries in recent months especially after the US sent warships through the strategically-sensitive Taiwan Strait, which separates self-ruled Taiwan from mainland China.

Zhang Chunhui, a spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), commenting on the movement of a US missile destroyer through the waterway, said it sent the "wrong signal" to Chinese Taipei's government and "willfully disrupted the regional situation by endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."

China has repeatedly warned Washington against sailing warships in the Taiwan Strait, urging it to abide by the "One China principle" and "the Three Communiques" signed with China regarding the status of Taiwan.

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