A Chinese state media outlet tweeted on Saturday that U.S. aircraft carriers currently operating in the South China Sea are only doing so “at the pleasure” of China’s People’s Liberation Army and that China has an array of “aircraft carrier killer” missiles available to use if it chooses.
China’s Global Times tweeted the warning, along with pictures of Dongfeng 26 ballistic missiles mounted on missile trucks. “China has a wide selection of anti-aircraft carrier weapons like DF-21D and DF-26 ‘aircraft carrier killer’ #missiles.,” Global Times tweeted. “South China Sea is fully within grasp of the #PLA; any US #aircraftcarrier movement in the region is at the pleasure of PLA: analysts.”
China has a wide selection of anti-aircraft carrier weapons like DF-21D and DF-26 “aircraft carrier killer” #missiles. South China Sea is fully within grasp of the #PLA; any US #aircraftcarrier movement in the region is at the pleasure of PLA: analysts. https://t.co/X5L0foka6Q pic.twitter.com/rEPjp9gqAZ
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 4, 2020
The tweet comes as USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan strike groups have been operating in the disputed South China Sea region, conducting naval drills in the area near the Philippine Sea.
The Chinese media outlet’s tweet appeared as a veiled threat, as it suggested the U.S. ships are only able to travel through the disputed sea region because the PLA allows it.
On Sunday, the Twitter account for the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Information replied to the Global Times tweet, pushing back on the Chinese claims that the U.S. can only travel in the region with China’s permission.
And yet, there they are. Two @USNavy aircraft carriers operating in the international waters of the South China Sea. #USSNimitz & #USSRonaldReagan are not intimidated #AtOurDiscretion https://t.co/QGTggRjOul
— Navy Chief of Information (@chinfo) July 5, 2020
“We aggressively seek out every opportunity to advance and strengthen our capabilities and proficiency at conducting all-domain warfighting operations,” Rear Adm. George Wikoff said of the U.S. aircraft carrier exercise in the South China Sea. “The U.S. Navy remains mission ready and globally deployed. Dual carrier operations demonstrate our commitment to regional allies, our ability to rapidly mass combat power in the Indo-Pacific, and our readiness to confront all those who challenge international norms that support regional stability.”
The U.S. Navy carrier drill also comes as China has been making moves to assert claims to the South China Sea.
The U.S. Navy recently raised concerns about a Chinese effort to establish an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, despite conflicting claims to the region from other countries. China also recently conducted its own military drills in the disputed sea region, including practice for amphibious landings to capture islands in the sea region.