South China Sea military drill risks provoking Trump as Beijing flexes muscle in region

Chinese Navy spokesman Gao Xiucheng said the exercise is in accordance with international law.He said it was part of a regular training exercise and added the Navy will continue to organise similar training activities. Beijing has stated that it has planned to upgrade the combat capability of their aircraft carrier formation system as the Chinese Navy competes with the US Pacific Fleet.

The US Navy has conducted nine combat manoeuvres in the South China Sea last year, according to records provided by US Pacific Fleet.

The manoeuvres are designed to challenge China’s claim to maritime rights and dominion over several island chains in the region, which have put the US and its allies at loggerheads with China.

It has been more than 11 years since an American carrier traversed the Taiwan Strait, and many commentators claim the US has shied away from sending any large formations in order to not threaten China’s growing naval might.

Chang Ching, a retired Taiwan naval captain and researcher at the Taipei-based Society for Strategic Studies said: “The Trump administration faces a dilemma.

“They want to send smart, calibrated signals to Beijing without causing an overreaction or misunderstanding.”

This caution is typical of the restraint the US and allied navies, including Japan and Australia, now display in international waters near the China.

They deem the Chinese coast hostile territory and to be approached with caution.

According to more than 10 current and former senior US and Western military officials the US are now backtracking on their commitments to defend the straits between China and Taiwan.

They claim China now rules the waves in what it calls the San Hai, or “Three Seas”.

The “three” include, the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea. In these waters, the United States and its allies avoid provoking the Chinese navy.

This news comes as China and Vietnam have both been building up paramilitary forces and fishing fleets to stake claims in the disputed South China Sea.

International observers have been warning for years that the region is a powder keg.

There have been recent reports of the Chinese sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat.

While Beijing continues its assertive tactics to try to control more waterways in defiance of regional and international opinion, Hanoi is responding but has far fewer boats, analysts said.

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The assessment came after a Chinese coastguard ship and a Vietnamese fishing vessel collided near the Paracel Islands on April 2, with each side claiming their ship had been rammed by the other.

The two countries are embroiled in a long-lasting maritime dispute over claims to part of the South China Sea, and often run into fishing disputes.

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