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Amid tensions with China, the US continues its drills in the South China Sea

By 02/13/2023 9:52 AMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff

Amid escalating tensions with Beijing over the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are conducting joint exercises in the South China Sea.

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group have been engaged in “integrated expeditionary strike force operations,” according to the Japan-based 7th Fleet.

It mentioned exercises involving ships, ground troops, and aircraft on Saturday but provided no information regarding when they started or whether they were complete.

China asserts almost complete sovereignty over the South China Sea and vigorously opposes any military involvement by other countries in the territorial waters, through which $5 trillion worth of cargo is transported annually.

Although the United States doesn’t have a formal stance on South China Sea sovereignty, it believes that overflight and navigational freedoms must be protected.

It sends ships sailing past solid Chinese outposts in the Spratly Islands many times a year, setting off vehement protestations from Beijing.

The Chinese coast guard and supposedly civilian but government-backed boats have encroached on islands and fisheries, prompting the United States to expand its defense partnership with the Philippines.

The American military drills were prepared in advance. The balloon, shot down last weekend in American airspace off the coast of South Carolina, ignited a diplomatic dispute that has strained fragile relations between Washington and Beijing.

Beijing maintains that the unmanned balloon was a meteorological research airship that had unintentionally blown off course, despite the U.S. saying that it was outfitted to detect and gather intelligence signals.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken hastily postponed a crucial trip to Beijing last weekend to defuse tensions due to the incident.

China has stepped up its rhetoric after first delivering a very unusual expression of regret over the incident, calling the U.S. action an overreaction and a breach of international rules.

China’s defense minister rejected a call from the United States. Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary, will speak on the subject.

In reaction to the event, the US blacklisted six Chinese organizations it claimed were connected to Beijing’s aerospace activities.

In a separate unanimous vote, the House of Representatives denounced China for its “brazen infringement” of American sovereignty and its efforts to “deceive the world community through misleading assertions about its intelligence collection programs.”

According to the Pentagon, the balloon was a component of a substantial monitoring program China has been carrying out for some time. The United States claims that Chinese balloons have recently flown over dozens of nations on five continents, and it discovered further information about the balloon operation after closely watching the balloon that was shot down in South Carolina.

The 7th Fleet stated in its news release that the combined operation had “established a powerful presence in the region, which supports peace and stability.”



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