Meanwhile, the U.S. and Philippines were preparing for joint exercises as the U.S. Secretary of Defense suggested ways to deepen Washington-Manila military cooperation after China massaged ships in disputed waters.
The Liaoning’s reported arrival in the South China Sea came after a US Navy expeditionary strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island conducted exercises in the South China Sea the day before. The two flat-top warships were joined by a cruiser, destroyer and smaller amphibious ships.
The ships also carried hundreds of ground troops from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, as well as their supporting helicopters and F-35 fighter jets.
“This expedition fully shows that we maintain a credible force capable of responding to any eventuality, warding off aggression and providing regional security and stability in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said US Navy Stewart Bateshansky, Commodore, Amphibious Squadron 3, said in a statement.
Global Times quoted a Chinese military expert, Wei Dongxu, as saying that the US Navy exercises were a provocation.
The Chinese airline’s exercises “can build broader maritime defense positions, protect China’s coastal regions and keep US military activities in check,” the report said, citing Wei.
However, a US analyst described Liaoning’s presence in the South China Sea as normal for spring, when weather conditions are conducive to training. “The Liaoning is going down there this time of year for air defense and live fire training,” said Carl Schuster, former chief of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.
Joint exercises between the USA and the Philippines
The exercises will focus on testing the readiness of U.S. and Filipino forces to respond to events such as extremist attacks and natural disasters, the report said.
They come after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin proposed to his Manila counterpart Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday to deepen ties between the US and Filipino military, a Pentagon statement said.
Washington and Manila are linked by a mutual defense treaty that, according to official information, could come into play in the event of a Chinese military action against Filipino government ships around the Whitsun Strike.
Locsin’s comments came after a Filipino news crew said their chartered boat was hunted by Chinese rocket boats as it approached a controversial swarm in the Spratly chain last week, according to the CNN Philippines report.
China claims almost the entire 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea as sovereign territory and is facing claims from the Philippines and other nations. In recent years, Beijing has turned controversial features in the region into man-made islands with military fortifications.
Beijing accuses Washington and other foreign navies of fueling tension in the region by sending in warships such as the current expeditionary group led by the aircraft carrier Roosevelt.
Tensions extend to the northeastern edges of the South China Sea, where the island of Taiwan is located. Beijing claims the democratic, self-governing island with almost 24 million inhabitants as territory, although the two sides have been ruled separately for more than seven decades.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed that Beijing will never allow Taiwan to become officially independent and has refused to rule out the use of force to unite the island with the mainland.
Analysts said the exercises are a warning to Taipei and Washington that Beijing will not take steps for Taiwan’s independence and are ready to act militarily to prevent it.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Washington had an obligation to defend Taiwan.
“What we’re really concerned about is the increasingly aggressive government in Beijing against Taiwan,” Blinken said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“We are seriously committed to ensuring that Taiwan can defend itself. We are seriously committed to peace and security in the western Pacific. In this context, it would be a grave mistake if someone tried to use force to change this status quo.” “Blinking said.