Monday, February 20, 2017

US carrier starts ‘routine’ patrols in South China Sea

The US deployed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) to the disputed waters of the South China Sea as part of maritime “routine operations.” Sailing with the 97,000-ton Vinson is the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, the Navy said in a statement. The Vinson carries a flight group of more than 60 aircraft, including F/A-18 jet fighters.

During his confirmation hearing, new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should be blocked from accessing the artificial islands it’s built, setting the stage for a potential showdown. In a news conference, China’s Foreign Ministry said it heard about the planned deployment of the Vinson days before it happened, and warned Washington against challenging its sovereignty.
Beijing's artificial islands in the area have been outfitted with military features. Satellite imagery released by Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in December showed China has installed weapon systems on all seven artificial islands.

The US operation comes amid growing tensions between the United States and China over territory and trade, and as the Trump administration looks set to take a more confrontational stance toward China than its predecessor.