A US Navy aircraft carrier group is reportedly operating in the South China Sea in an obvious demonstration of US strength that aims to raise tensions in the region against China, while a Chinese naval training ship is on a goodwill tour of building the peace and friendship in Southeast Asia.
Based on the flight tracks of two C-2A Greyhound carrier-based transport aircraft, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan made a transit through the Bashi Channel and sailed into the South China Sea on Wednesday, according to open-source monitoring by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank.
The flight tracks show that the US aircraft flew between the aircraft carrier and the Philippines, a country the US has recently been roping in to militarily confront China. The US gained access to four additional military bases in the Philippines in addition to holding joint naval and coast guard exercises with the country this year.
“The US aircraft carrier is anticipated to hold exercises and show off its strength in the South China Sea,” Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
As a force from outside the region, the US has been rallying up gangs in the South China Sea – now the Philippines in particular – to gain footholds for its naval and aviation forces and hold provocative joint exercises that negatively impact peace and stability in the region, Wei said.
However, on the same day the US aircraft carrier entered the South China Sea, the training ship Qi Jiguang of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy arrived in Manila on Wednesday for a three-day goodwill visit to the Philippines.
Carrying 476 sailors and cadets, the training ship Qi Jiguang started its far sea cadet training and visit mission on May 15 from Dalian, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Over the past month, it has already visited Vietnam, Thailand and Brunei, and the Philippines is scheduled to be the last stop.
The visit of Qi Jiguang, a non-combat vessel, to the Philippines showed the PLA Navy’s friendly gesture that can enhance communication and mutual trust, Wei said. “The PLA Navy vessel’s voyage in the South China Sea is a tour of peace and friendship. It is a stark contrast with the US aircraft carrier’s muscle flexing, which is a hegemonic move that is not welcomed in the region,” Wei said.
Before entering the South China Sea, the USS Ronald Reagan teamed up with the USS Nimitz into a dual carrier strike groups at the start of June. Together with forces from other countries including Japan, France and Canada, they conducted consecutive exercises in the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the vicinity of China’s Taiwan region.
Such provocative moves are not conducive to easing tensions in China-US military relations, another Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Thursday, requesting anonymity.
The PLA is fully capable of defeating any hostile forces, including US aircraft strikes groups, on China’s doorstep, be it in the South China Sea or around the island of Taiwan, and safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, the expert said.
The PLA has established a comprehensive system consisting of naval, aviation and rocket forces supported by complete intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to prevent foreign forces from coming close to China if a conflict breaks out, analysts said.