China denounces 'relevant countries' after USA carrier deploys to South China Sea

The US Navy made the announcement on its website last Saturday, stating that the strike group, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier "USS Carl Vinson", together with aircraft from the "Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2", and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer "USS Wayne E. Meyer" started "routine operations" in the South China Sea.

"China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight that countries enjoy in the South China Sea under global law", China Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday in a press conference transcript posted to the ministry's website.

The U.S. carrier strike group has not referred to its recent operations in the South China Sea as "freedom of navigation" patrols.

China has nearly finished building almost two dozen structures that appear created to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, US officials told Reuters on Tuesday. "We hope relevant countries can do more to safeguard regional peace and stability".

USA ships previous year conducted several such patrols to counter any efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

While there have been concerns over China's military capabilities in the region, the US intelligence official said the structures did not pose a significant military threat to USA forces, and it appeared to be more of a political test for the Trump administration. China maintains an ambiguous claim to about 90 percent of the sea through markings on a map known as the nine-dash line. War games involving its own aircraft carrier have unnerved neighbors with which it has long-running territorial disputes.

But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. It claims nearly all of the resource-rich waters, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

The Association of South East Asian Nations, which includes multiple countries involved in boat-ramming and other low-level conflicts with China over South China Sea territory, discussed Beijing's growing power at a press conference in the Philippines on Tuesday.

The United States has repeatedly criticized China's construction of man-made islands in the Spratly chain as well as the latter's buildup of military facilities on these islets, voicing concern they could be used to restrict free movement in the area.

Since joining the IODP, China has played a major role in expeditions to the South China Sea in 1999 and 2014, collecting samples for studying climate change and basin formation.

Beijing has laid claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which some $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

  • Leroy Wright