WASHINGTON: Despite China's warning to the United States to stop interfering in its military drills, the US sent two of its aircraft carriers and several warships to the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, July 4.
According to reports, the two US aircraft carriers were conducting exercises in the South China Sea, the US Navy reminded China that it has also carried out similar military drills which were criticised by Pentagon and other neighbouring states.
Both China and the US have accused each other of creating tension in the strategic waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from the new coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.
The US Navy said that the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out some of the Navy's largest exercise operations in the South China Sea with an aim to support a free and open Indo-Pacific. Even China is also holding drills in the South China Sea at the same time.
But the US navy didn't clearly mention where its exercises were being carried out in the South China Sea, which extends for some 1,500 km (900 miles). Ninety per cent of the sea is under the control of China despite protests from its neighbouring countries.
The purpose of the US sending two aircraft to the sea is to show unambiguous signal partners and allies that they are committed to regional security and stability, said Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff.
Ronald Reagan Strike group commander Wikoff said that they were not conducting exercises in response to the drills being conducted by China.
Even China dismissed the US criticism of its drills on Friday and said that the US was trying to increase tensions.
China even said that it had announced last week over its five days schedule of drills starting from July 1, near to the Paracel Islands which were claimed by China and Vietnam.
US navy said that US carriers have also planned for exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea at the same time, and said that it had three carriers in the region in recent times.
However, both the Philippines and Vietnam have also criticised the Chinese drills in the region and warned them to avoid such activities as they could create tension in the region and which will have an impact on Beijing’s relationship with its neighbouring countries.
Even the US has accused China of trying to intimidate neighbouring Asian countries who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
Reportedly countries like the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which around $3 trillion trade passes each year.