The South China Sea may be playing host to more U.S. Navy drills in the near future, much to the dismay of Beijing.
UPI reported this week that the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group – including the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 9 – recently stationed in Singapore, has entered the South China Sea.
China has in return deployed its Liaoning aircraft carrier and 40 other warships and submarines near Hainan Island, and they are apparently now conducting drills there.
The strike group in the South China Sea includes guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson, Asia Times reported, citing Singapore’s Straits Times.
The news of possible increased Navy activity in the area comes amid the United States’ rising tensions with China following new tariffs that have resulted in a trade war and China’s reported plans to deploy its first domestic aircraft carrier.
While the U.S. routinely conducts maritime training drills in the South China Sea, military presence in the region is regularly contested. China lays claim to a number of disputed islands and territories, which often times results in touchy situations during routine drills. Even with China continually on edge, the U.S. has reaffirmed that they will continue to not only keep a noticeable presence, but also conduct necessary drills as needed.
“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said back in March, the Associated Press reported.
Jin Yinan, a retired People’s Liberation Army general and former professor at China’s National Defense University, issued a stark warning on China National Radio, according to UPI, on America’s policy of “pressure” against China and Russia. He alluded to the fact that this type of hostile environment could ultimately result in the two countries forming an alliance.
“Russia and China must be left apart; when they are together they cannot be confronted,” Jin said.
The proposed Navy drills, led by Carrier Strike Group 9, could also result in joint exercises with the militaries of other countries, according to UPI.
China itself is no stranger to large-scale military drills, having conducted its own with 40 Chinese ships along with its first aircraft carrier near Hainan Island at the end of March.
China has worked hard to improve the practicality and capability of its navy in recent years, though many officials affirm that Beijing is still no match for the U.S. China has virtually no Navy combat experience and continues to lag behind a number of other countries, as well.
“While an impressive view, they would be a rich target pool for four B-1 bombers with 96 newly fielded long-range anti-ship cruise missiles,” Hans Kristensen, a military expert and the Director of the Nuclear Information Project, tweeted following China’s drill.