The U.S. is planning an official announcement on its South China Sea position next week, two anonymous officials told Bloomberg on Friday.
Tensions between the U.S. and China have been intensifying in the South China Sea recently as China is increasing its aggressive behavior and the U.S. is increasing its freedom of navigation patrols in the region.
Last week, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy held a naval exercise near the contested Paracel Islands, which are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. The U.S. Department of Defense condemned the exercise as “unlawful.”
“The military exercises are the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea,” the DOD said in a statement, adding that the exercises violate the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability. The PRC’s actions will further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea,” the DOD noted.
Also last week, the U.S. deployed two aircraft carrier groups to conduct its own exercise in the region. USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan conducted tactical air defense exercises in its freedom of navigation mission. The warships remained in international territory and conducted their operations in accordance with international law, but China still lashed out.
“We hope the US will examine itself and stop its provocative military acts in the South China Sea, stop smearing and blaming the Chinese side for no reason, stop trying to drive a wedge between countries in the region, and stop creating this tense situation,” a spokesperson said on the Chinese defense ministry’s website.
China has been continuing its militarization of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea with the construction of military bases and other industrial facilities in the region.