U.S. aircraft carrier group enters South China Sea amid Taiwan tensions

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt departs following an extended visit in the midst of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, from Apra Harbor, Guam May 21, 2020. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A U.S. aircraft carrier group has entered the South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas”, said the U.S. military on Sunday, as tensions between China and Taiwan have raised concern in Washington.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the strike group led by USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea, a large part of which is claimed by China, on Saturday, according to Reuters.

Taiwan reported on Saturday a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defense identification zone in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands.

The U.S. military said the aircraft carrier group was in South China Sea to conduct routine operations “to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnership that foster maritime security,” Reuters reported.

The Theodore Roosevelt is being accompanied by the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Russell and USS John Finn, the U.S. military said in a statement.

“After sailing through these waters throughout my 30-year career, it’s great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners,” Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of the strike group, was quoted as saying.

“With two-thirds of the world’s trade travelling through this very important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote the rules-based order which has allowed us all to prosper,” Verissimo added.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state Antony Blinken told his Senate confirmation on Tuesday that there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation, according to Reuters.

China has repeatedly complained about U.S. Navy ships getting close to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims.

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