Saturday, 27 Feb 2021

South China Sea: US crosses paths with bolstered Beijing forces as fears of war surge

South China Sea: Expert warns Beijing about ‘US influence’

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Rear Admiral James Kirk, commander of the USS Nimitz which carried out an exercise in the region on Tuesday with USS Theodore Roosevelt, said: “We’ve seen an expansion of their military capability.” He spoke during a video call to reporters alongside Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, commander of Theodore Roosevelt, according to the Financial Times.

Rear Admiral Kirk said: “We’ve seen an expansion of their military capability; a larger number of aircraft, larger number of ships being utilized on a daily basis. So the capacity has clearly increased.

“I wouldn’t infer what their intent is … [but] the number of forces we see in all domains has increased significantly.”

Chinese and the US sent military planes into the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification a fortnight ago, after Chinese jets carried out “simulated missile attacks” on the US aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Eleven Chinese military fighter jets, including H-6 bombers, flew to the area as the ship passed through.

READ MORE: US warships threaten to erupt South China Sea tensions with drills after Beijing warning

Pilot cockpit conversations intercepted by Taiwan and US intelligence confirmed that the fighter pilots were taking part in a simulated missile strike against the US warships, sources said.

The US military accused China of destabilising and aggressive behaviour in relation to the incident, but insisted that none of their personnel were in danger.

The USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt both conducted a joint exercise in the waters on Tuesday, with the Nimitz having spent nearly 10 months deployed in the region.

Tuesday’s joint drill with Theodore Roosevelt and Nimitz was only the third time the two vessels worked together since 2012.

It follows reports from China that its 26 “aircraft-carrier killer” missiles cover the entire South China Sea and could nullify the US’ advantage of 11 carriers to Beijing’s 2.

Rear Adm. Kirk said in response: “We are always mindful of the capabilities of other militaries and we operate in a way that’s respectful of these capabilities, so I don’t think worrying is something we do.

“We do prepare for and are mindful of the different military capabilities out there to ensure that we can defend our forces should we be called upon to do that.”

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US President Joe Biden has announced the Department of Defence had set up a task force for strategy on China.

He said during his first visit to the Pentagon since taking office: “We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally.

“Today I was briefed on a new DoD-wide China task force that Secretary Austin is standing up to look at our strategy and operational concepts, technology and force posture and so much more.”

The State Department previously stated Mr Biden wants to be “in lockstep” with allies.

Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, warned global leaders against a “new Cold War”, in a threat to the US.

During a virtual Davos forum, he said: “To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others … will only push the world into division.”

In a swipe at moves targeting China launched by the previous US administration under Donald Trump, the Chairman added confrontation “will always end up harming every nation’s interests and sacrificing people’s welfare”.

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