The U.S. Navy stated that an aircraft carrier and a guided-missile destroyer were sent to the South China Sea on Saturday for “routine operations” in international waters. The Navy announced that the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Wayne E. Meyer were deployed to the region to conduct a “freedom of navigation” operation, garnering a response from Chinese officials urging the “U.S. to refrain from challenging China’s sovereignty.”
“Prior to their operations in the South China Sea, ships and aircraft from within the strike group conducted training off the islands of Hawaii and Guam to maintain and improve their readiness and develop cohesion as a strike group,”the U.S. Navy said in a press release. “The strike group recently enjoyed a port visit to Guam and after departing the Marianas, conducted operations in the Philippine Sea.”
The commander of the strike group,Rear Adm. James Kilby, stated that the Navy is looking forward to show off their “effectiveness and readiness.”
“The training completed over the past few weeks has really brought the team together and improved our effectiveness and readiness as a strike group,” Rear Adm. Kilby said. “We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
During a news conference last week, China’s foreign ministry spokesman condemned the U.S. Navy’s planned deployment of its USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters,” Shuang said.
“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” he continued.
He stated that he hoped that countries would respect China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries’ efforts to gain security and steadiness in the region, while urging the United States not to challenge China’s sovereignty.
“We hope that countries outside the region will respect efforts made by China and ASEAN countries, and join the endeavor to sustain the positive momentum,” Shuang said. “We also urge the US to refrain from challenging China’s sovereignty and security and to respect regional countries’ efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
The South China Sea is a highly contested area because both the Chinese and Japanese have claimed the Senkauks islands as their own. Japan laid claim to the islands as early as the late 19th-century while the Chinese first claimed the islands at the end of WWII. Mattis vowed to protect and defend Japan, and accused China of “shredding the trust.”
“I made clear that our long-standing policy on the Senkaku Islands stands. The U.S. will continue to recognize Japanese administration of the islands,” Mattis said during his first trip to the region since becoming Secretary of Defense in January.
“As such, Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty applies,” Mattis continued, speaking about Article 5 which commits the U.S. to defending Japan if they’re attacked.