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China Prepares To ‘Counter Attack’ As US Carrier Enters Contested Waters

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China conducted “counter-attack” drills shortly after a U.S. carrier entered disputed waters in the South China Sea, potentially raising tensions at a time of great uncertainty in U.S.-China bilateral relations.

A U.S. Navy carrier battle group led by the USS Carl Vinson entered the South China Sea Saturday for “routine operations,” reports CNN. The U.S. carrier, which is carrying more than 60 aircraft, is accompanied by the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer. China dispatched naval forces to the South China Sea Sunday for “counter-attack” exercises, reports China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency. Missile destroyers Changsha and Haikou, part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy South China Sea fleet, took part in the defense exercises.

The two Chinese missile destroyers practiced firing on simulated enemy destroyers. The Changsha and the Haikou took part in a series of larger drills in the South China Sea involving elements of the Beihai and East China Sea fleets, as well as naval aviation units from the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

China expressed its opposition to America’s military presence in the South China Sea prior to the carrier battle group’s arrival in the area.

“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang explained Wednesday.

China restated its concerns Tuesday.

“China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight all countries enjoy under international law,” Geng asserted, “But we are consistently opposed to relevant countries threatening and damaging the sovereignty and security of littoral countries under the banner of freedom of navigation and overflight.”

“We hope relevant countries can do more to safeguard regional peace and stability,” he further noted.

When Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Tokyo, Japan, he said that the U.S. did not intend to engage in any “dramatic military moves;” however, he did say that the U.S. would uphold freedom of navigation.

China is on edge after the Navy Times reported that the U.S. is planning to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea with increased frequency. The report, which cited military officials, suggested that the USS Carl Vinson might take part in a freedom-of-navigation operation challenging China’s questionable claims to the region.

While China claims most of the South China Sea, its claims were discredited by an international arbitration tribunal last summer. Despite the ruling, China has continued to assert its dominance in the region.


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