The United States and China embark upon a new military-power showdown in the Pacific with Beijing sending its sole aircraft carrier to the South China Sea after American bombers defied a Chinese no-fly zone in the region.
The Chinese warship Liaoning, which left its home port of Qingdao on Tuesday, was accompanied by two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and Weifang.
According to Chinese media reports, the cruise is on its first cross-sea training mission.
Beijing’s move came immediately after Washington flew two B-52 bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea to challenge China’s freshly declared Air Defense Identification Zone.
China established the defense zone over the weekend, urging airlines to inform the Chinese government upon entering the region.
The United States has said it will not recognize China’s new air defense zone.
“The United States does not apply that procedure to foreign aircraft,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Tuesday. “So it certainly is one we don’t think others should apply.”
The two US bombers’ pilots did not identify themselves upon entering the disputed airspace, as China would have wanted.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also characterized China’s move as an “escalatory action (that) will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.”
China had warned that its military will take “defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in identification or refuse to follow instructions.”
China’s defense ministry said it “monitored” the US bomber flights in its defense zone.
“The Chinese military monitored the entire process, carried out identification in a timely manner, and ascertained the type of US aircraft,” China’s defense spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement.
“China is capable of exercising effective control over this airspace,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Philippines warned on Wednesday that China’s deployment of the warship could aggravate tensions in the region.
“Its deployment does not contribute to collective efforts to strengthen regional stability and instead serves to threaten the status quo,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
Tang Siew Mun, director of Foreign Policy and Security Studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said it was “probably very prudent” to hold the Chinese aircraft carriers in the South China Sea rather than the East China Sea.
Tensions between the US and China have entered a new phase over the recent developments.
China is concerned about US militarism in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing is considering the Pentagon’s focus to “pivot” increased US military presence in the Pacific as a strategy to counter China’s increasing global influence.
In a phone interview with Press TV, American military analyst Michael Burns said China is testing the United States by declaring a no-fly zone over the East China Sea.
China started to “realize that their economic power has to be matched with military power based on the model that has existed in the past century, which is the flag follows the fleet. Basically that is to say the political power follows military power,” Burns said.