Key point: China's latest attempt at deterrence.
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.
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.
Navy official described U.S. operations in the area and the new carrier-strike group deployment as part of a normal “variety of operations around the globe, regardless of current events.”
At the same time, China’s provocative actions have not gone unnoticed and the Pentagon has consistently said the U.S. is committed to demonstrating that U.S. forces can fly, sail and operate anywhere in the world according to international law.
“FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements. The United States takes a strong position on protecting the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all countries and that all maritime claims must comply with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, Navy Pacific Fleet official, told Warrior Maven in a statement.