China is condemning what it's deemed a blow to "regional peace and stability" after no less than two US aircraft carrier strike groups have initiated coordinated military exercises and maneuvers in the South China Sea on Tuesday. It comes further after China blasted the latest provocative sail by of the USS John S. McCain destroyer near the China-claimed Paracel Islands last week, as well as repeat incursions of Taiwan air space by PLA bombers and jets.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Nimitz carriers "conducted a multitude of exercises aimed at increasing interoperability between assets as well as command and control capabilities," a US Navy statement indicated.
It marks the first such dual carrier operation in the South China Sea since the last one in July 2020, and represents the most serious posture of defense readiness signaled to Beijing since Biden took office.
"Biden is taking a strong stance to oppose China’s territorial claims in the disputed waters," underscores Bloomberg in its reporting.
Early this month we noted that in a reflection of the new administration's intent to generally shift its foreign policy priorities from the Middle East to South East Asia and China in particular, the USS Nimitz was called "home" and away from its Indian Ocean-Mideast region of responsibility, but not before stopping or "pausing" provocatively in "China's backyard" (as Beijing sees it):
*NIMITZ CARRIER LEAVING CENTRAL COMMAND TO INDO-PACIFIC: KIRBY— zerohedge (@zerohedge) February 2, 2021
so two US carriers in the south china sea
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby had initially announced at the start of this month that "USS Nimitz has left Arabian Sea and 5th Fleet after being deployed for over 270 days amid tensions with Iran," while indicating it was "currently in the Indo-Pacific." So now we know why.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was quick to condemn the dual carrier "show of force" on Tuesday:
"China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security and work with countries in the region to firmly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea," according to the statement.
Initially the Nimitz had remained out at sea past its scheduled date to return home to its US West Coast base.
Two-carrier exercises are relatively rare, though they have seen a recent uptick in frequency. As of Tuesday, just nine have taken place in the Indo-Pacific region since 2001 — four since June.https://t.co/B8VNCAxQxC— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) February 9, 2021
It had been in the gulf region and Indian Ocean at the tail-end of the Trump presidency amid ratcheting tensions with Iran, and as the former president reportedly mulled military action to prevent Iran from taking steps to achieve nuclear weapons.
With the Biden administration apparently looking for rapid de-escalation with Iran, perhaps considering that particular geopolitical hotspot to be much more manageable, it appears Beijing now fully occupies the attention of Washington and the Pentagon.