Published On: Thu, May 14th, 2020

South China Sea news: US Navy displays military might in war exercises – China on alert | World | News

Tensions between China and the US are on the rise again as Independence-class US Navy littoral combat ships were spotted patrolling the much-disputed South China Sea.

Last week, the US Air Force and Marines conducted training exercises in the area with three submarines joining ships and aircraft in the nearby Philippine Sea.

The actions are thought to be a reaction to Chinese harassment of ships drilling for resources in nearby waters.

Back in April, three US ships joined the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Parramatta and sailed to the region to demonstrate a commitment to keeping the sea open.

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7, said: “The versatility and flexibility of Independence-variant littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Southeast Asia is a game changer.

“Like Montgomery’s previous operations, Gabrielle Giffords’ operations near West Capella (the drill ship) demonstrate the depth of capability the US Navy has available in the region.

“There is no better signal of our support for a free and open Indo-Pacific than positive and persistent US Naval engagement in this region.”

Vice Adm. Bill Mer added that the US will continue to operate in South China Sea waters as long as international laws permits.

He said: “Routing presence operations, like Gabrielle Giffords’, reaffirms the US will continue to fly and sail freely, in accordance with international law and maritime norms, regardless of excessive claims or current events.

READ MORE: South China Sea tinderbox: Vietnam braces for showdown with Beijing 

The recent construction of bunkers on some of the atolls points to China preparing to “protection against air or missile strikes”, raising the prospect of a potential conflict, sparking World War 3 fears.

The islands and surrounding reefs have been the subject of a bitter and long-running territorial dispute, with China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all laying claim to parts of the archipelago.

Earlier this month, China hit out at Vietnam’s fishing protest in the South China Sea days after Beijing issued a ban on trawlers in part of the disputed waters.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said its neighbour had no right to comment on the annual summer prohibition on fishing, insisting China had every right to issue such a ban.

The rebuke came after Vietnam last week resisted China’s decision to kick its fishermen out of the sea on May 1 and will not be allowed to return until mid-August.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry hit out at the ban and said China should not “further complicate the situation in the South China Sea”.

Vietnam’s protest came weeks after the country claimed one of its boats had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel.

The two countries have for years been embroiled in a bitter dispute over the stretch of water.

The relationship between China and the US has also come further under the spotlight since the coronavirus outbreak began.

US President Donald Trump has continually blamed China for the outbreak of the deadly virus and previously said he was considering imposing tariffs on the Communist nation.

China has faced backlash over its handling of the virus and denied the origin of COVID-19 was Wuhan.

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