China condemns US Navy carrier groups in the South China Sea

Beijing warns that ‘show of force’ by Washington is not conducive to peace and stability in the region

China has denounced drills by the United States Navy in the highly-contentious South China Sea.

Spearheaded by the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz, the carrier strike groups “conducted a multitude of exercises,” according to the US Navy.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned that the “show of force” from the two carrier groups was not conducive to regional peace and stability.

“China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security. [It will also] work with countries in the region to firmly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he told a media briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

The facts:

  • Tension in the South China Sea has escalated in the past 18 months.
  • This was the largest US naval operation since President Joe Biden moved into the White House.
  • It was the first dual-carrier strike group exercise since last July.
  • Beijing claims vast areas of the 1.3 million-square-mile waters as its “sovereign territory.”
  • The Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia have seen their international rights trampled on.
  • Tiny islands and sand bars have been turned into fortified naval bases by the People’s Liberation Army.
  • They are regularly patrolled by armed coastguard vessels and capital warships.
  • Chinese fighter jets offer air cover.

What was said: “We are committed to ensuring the lawful use of the sea that all nations enjoy under international law,” Rear Admiral Jim Kirk, the commander of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, said in a statement. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen went even further. “This demonstrates the clear US attitude towards challenges to the security status quo in the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.

Reaction to the news: “While trying to portray China’s action as ‘aggressive’ in the South China Sea, the United States is the most dangerous factor fueling militarization and stoking tensions in the region. If Washington really cares about peace and stability, it should immediately stop interfering and learn to respect the rights and wishes of relevant countries,” Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary.

China Factor comment: Up to US$3 trillion of trade traverses through this maritime superhighway, which President Xi Jinping’s ruling Communist Party appears determined to dominate. Apart from the US, other major regional and global democracies will continue to pursue “freedom of navigation” access to one of the world’s great waterways.