Following conflicts over trade, technology, and capital markets, tensions between the US and China continue to rise with the latest escalation coming after a US Navy warship sailed near China-claimed islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday. This was the second sailing of a warship near China's heavily disputed islands under the Biden administration, according to Reuters.
The US Navy's 7th Fleet's USS Russell (DDG-59), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles on a "freedom of navigation operation" (FONOP) of the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law.
"This freedom of navigation operation ("FONOP") upheld the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging unlawful restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan," Lt. Joe Keiley, a spokesman for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, said in a statement.
The Russell's FONOP followed a similar operation earlier this month when the USS John S. McCain, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, entered the waters near Paracel islands. This is the second sailing in the last couple of weeks under the Biden administration as they step up pressure on China.
The two destroyers' sailings in the South China Sea come a little more than one week after USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz, two supercarriers, conducted rare drills in the heavily disputed waters.
"Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the sea, including freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations," Keiley said in the statement.
The heavily disputed waterway is one of the flashpoints in the US-China relationship, including a trade war, technology war, US sanctions, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, according to the latest naval deployment map from Stratfor, CVN 71 Roosevelt is underway in the Philippine Sea, and CVN68 Eisenhower is underway in the Atlantic Ocean following a Middle East deployment.
Over the past year, the US has increased aerial patrols, and US Navy warship sails through the disrupted region and near and through the Taiwan Strait, an exercise aimed at angering Beijing. Such "close encounters" and US flyovers and sail throughs in the South China Sea and near Taiwan became more frequent during the Trump presidency's tail-end.
In President Biden's first foreign policy address earlier this month, he described China as the "most serious competitor" to the US and promised to confront Bejing on multiple levels.
"We'll confront China's economic abuses, counter its aggressive, coercive actions, and push back on China's attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance," Biden said.