Tokya- Two US Navy aircraft carriers are conducting exercises in the contested South China Sea within sight of Chinese naval vessels spotted near the flotilla, the commander of one of the carriers, the USS Nimitz, said on Monday.
“They have seen us and we have seen them,” Rear Admiral James Kirk said in a telephone interview from the Nimitz, which has been conducting flight drills in the waterway with the Seventh Fleet carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, that began on the US Independence Day holiday of July 4.
The US Navy has brought carriers together for such shows of force in the region in the past, but this year’s drill comes amid heightened tension as the United States criticises China over its novel coronavirus response and accuses it of taking advantage of the pandemic to push territorial claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
China’s foreign ministry said the US had deliberately sent its ships to the South China Sea to flex its muscles and accused it of trying to drive a wedge between countries in the region.
The Pentagon, when it announced the dual carrier exercise, said it wanted to “stand up for the right of all nations to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows”, describing its 100,000-ton ships and the 90 or so aircraft they each carry as a “symbol of resolve”.
About 12,000 sailors are on ships in the combined carrier strike groups. China’s claims nine tenths of in the resource-rich South China Sea, through which some $3 trillion of trade passes a year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims. —Reuters
Hong Kong: A Hong Kong court on Monday denied bail to Tong Ying-ki, the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under the new national security law, after he carried a sign saying “Liberate Hong Kong” and drove his motorbike into the police. Reuters
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