The United States has reportedly deployed carrier strike groups for exercises in the disputed South China Sea as it ramps up its opposition to Beijing’s maritime claims in the region.
The USS Carl Vinson and USS Essex, a wasp-class landing helicopter dock — along with their escort ships — entered southern seas on Tuesday, said Beijing-based think tank, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative.
According to the South China Morning Post, the US Navy is expected to conduct joint exercises in the strategic international waterways, whose islands, atolls and reefs are subject to territorial disputes between China and several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines and Vietnam.
The exercises have so far not been confirmed by the US Navy.
On Wednesday, the US State Department presented its most detailed case yet against Beijing’s “illegitimate” claims in the South China Sea, rejecting its geographic and historical claims and calling on China to cease its “coercive activities”.
In a 47-page research paper, the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said China has no basis under international law for claims that have led to frequent clashes between Beijing and other regional capitals.
“The overall effect of these maritime claims is that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] unlawfully claims sovereignty or any form of exclusive jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea,” the paper said.
“These claims seriously undermine the rule of law in the oceans and many universally recognized provisions of international law,” it said.
In 2016, the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of a complaint from the Philippines over China’s claims, saying Beijing had “no historic right to resources in South China’s waters.” Sea”. China has refused to accept this verdict.
The latest Foreign Ministry report objects to Chinese sovereignty claims over more than a hundred objects in the South China Sea and the claimed maritime zones, and challenges the so-called “nine-dash line” underlying much of Beijing’s position.
The South China Sea is rich in oil and gas resources and is crucial for international shipping. Beijing’s mounting swagger in the region has sparked alarm and an increase in “freedom of navigation” operations by the US and its allies.
On Thursday, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan had conducted two of its own operations last year through waters near the artificial islands and reefs claimed by Beijing, “to warn China”.