Last week, the US Navy denied Chinese reports that the People’s Liberation Army Navy had repelled Arleigh Burke-USS-class destroyer Benfold while conducting a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near disputed islands in the South China Sea. In a statement, U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Mark Langford refuted the claims, noting that FONOP was conducted in accordance with international law and that “nothing [China] says otherwise will dissuade us.
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group (CSG-1) had previously conducted joint operations in the South China Sea alongside the Marine Corps’ Essex Amphibious Ready Group, which ended Jan. 16. missions, maritime interdiction operations, anti-submarine warfare, replenishment-at-sea and formation maneuvering/sailing operations.
After these latest Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ, the US Navy decided to bring the two carrier groups west, directly into the South China Sea where tensions continue to rise. US and Chinese forces have increased their presence across the region as the future of the South China Sea and regional stability hang in the balance. The People’s Liberation Army has sent a record number of planes through the ADIZ of Taiwan in recent months, as concerns about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan continue to loom.
As a result, Japan and the United States are said to be in talks to jointly stockpile munitions throughout the region for use in the event of a conflict over Taiwan. Anti-ship missiles, in particular, would no doubt be in high demand in any potential conflict in an attempt to counter or slow down an advance by the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
While the Navy’s high-profile operations are no doubt meant to send a message to Chinese leaders in Beijing, last week the Navy released several images of the Ohio USS class Nevada (SSBN 733) during his visit to Guam. This rare revelation was widely seen as a reminder to China and US allies of the powerful second-strike deterrent the United States has deployed in the Pacific at all times.
While many eyes are currently on naval forces massing in and around the European region, the Navy’s show of force in the Pacific signals that no matter what happens in other areas of operations, ensuring the security of the Indo-Pacific region remains at the forefront of the Pentagon’s top priorities.
Update at 5:55 p.m. EST:
An F-35C Joint Strike Fighter was involved in an accident while landing aboard the USS Carl Vinson today. The pilot is in stable condition after ejecting from the plane and seven other sailors were injured as a result of the accident. Three of the injured were evacuated to a medical center in Manila in the Philippines, while the other four were treated aboard the USS Carl Vinson. Learn more about the ongoing incident here.
Contact the author: [email protected]