Key point: With U.S. forces nearby, China decided a show of force would send a message of deterrence to Washington.
A U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group has arrived in the Pacific in a show of force as U.S.-China tensions rise, China conducts a massive military exercise and U.S. warships sail within 12 miles of territory claimed by China.
The arrival of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the region comes shortly after the USS Mustin, a U.S. Navy destroyer, sailed within 12 miles of a Chinese-claimed artificial island chain as part of ongoing U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FONOPs) exercises.
“The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group will conduct a variety of operations, including addressing shared maritime security concerns and building relationships with partners navies,” Lt. Liza Dougherty, Navy spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Although South China Sea territorial disputes have been lingering beneath the radar amid growing tensions with North Korea, U.S. military officials confirmed to Warrior Maven that the Freedom of Navigation exercise did take place - and that the issue of China’s “excessive maritime claims” has by no means gone away.
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Navy officials were clear to describe the carrier group deployment as part of normal routine operations and not specifically tied to tensions in the region in any way. However, both the carrier group arrival and the U.S. FONOP are taking place within the broader context of continued U.S.-China disagreements over island structures and territories in the South China Sea.