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US deploys two aircraft carriers to South China Sea as China sends warplanes over Taiwan

USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln in the South China Sea (Photo: USS Carl Vinson/Twitter)

Two US aircraft carrier groups are conducting training drills in the South China Sea (SCS) even as the Chinese flew 39 aircraft into Taiwan's Air Defence Zone.

US Navy's aircraft carriers—USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by other battleships began exercises in the SCS on Sunday. A statement by the US Navy said that the carrier groups “will engage in joint operations to include enhanced maritime communication operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction operations to strengthen maritime integrated-at-sea operations and combat readiness".

The statement by the Department of Defence said that the training will be conducted in accordance with international law in international waters.

The two aircraft carrier groups had earlier conducted naval exercises in the Philippine Sea with the Japanese Navy. These exercises were conducted southeast of the Japanese island of Okinawa.

In an apparent reference to China, a senior commander at the US Department of Defence said that the exercise was to reassure allies and demonstrate resolve to "counter malign influence". The US has been routinely sending its navy ships to the SCS islands to challenge China's claims on the waters and to keep the Indo-Pacific waters free for navigation without fear of coercion.

US President Joe Biden also makes it clear to allies in south-east Asia that they can count on US support.

In an act of intimidation, China has been regularly flying fleets of aircraft over Taiwan. It is also part of its efforts to challenge the US in a region it considers its backyard and area of influence.

By sending its navy, the US too has been trying to assure its allies—Japan, Taiwan and south-east Asian countries—that it will be there to balance China and its intimidation. Beijing has militarised islands and coral reefs in the region and has been pressing upon countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and others to give up their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in favour of China.

Just a fortnight back, the US had refuted China's historic claims that it owns almost all of the SCS and said that China's assertion over the region gravely undermines the rule of law. The SCS abounds in resources with oil and gas fields as well as rich fishing grounds, besides a heavy quantum of international trade that sails through the area. 

With this show of force in the SCS, the US has signalled to China that it should keeps its hands off Taiwan. 

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