US aircraft carriers enter South China Sea amid tensions between Taiwan, China

U.S. aircraft carriers on Sunday entered the South China Sea to begin operations amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan.

The U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln will engage in operations aimed at strengthening maritime integrated-at-sea operations and combat readiness, according to a statement from the Navy.

The training will be conducted in accordance with international laws, the statement said.

“Our ability to rapidly aggregate and work collectively alongside CSG 3, highlights the U.S. Navy’s ability to deliver overwhelming maritime force, when called upon, to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, commander of the strike group led by USS Carl Vinson, said in a statement.

“We are committed to ensuring the lawful use of the sea and free flow of commerce while deterring those who challenge the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific now and into the long-term future,” Martin continued.

The operations include enhanced maritime communication operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, and maritime interdiction operations, the statement said. 

The announcement from the Navy came the same day that Taiwan reported warding off 39 Chinese aircraft flying in its defense zone — including 34 fighters, four electronic warfare craft and one bomber. This was the largest incursion of China’s air forces in that zone in October.

U.S. warships frequently transit areas of the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait drawing anger from Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory. 

The Navy’s statement noted that since early September, units of the carrier strike group led by the Carl Vinson have conducted multiple operations alongside Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces.

More recently, the two forces participated in an annual naval exercise alongside the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and German Navy in the Philippine Sea.

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