The Navy Times minces no words about the mission of the USS John C. Stennis in the South China Sea, declaring “the United States just sent a carrier strike group to confront China.”
The Navy Times reports:
The carrier John C. Stennis, two destroyers, two cruisers and the 7th Fleet flagship have sailed into the disputed waters in recent days, according to military officials. The carrier strike group is the latest show of force in the tense region, with the U.S. asserting that China is militarizing the region to guard its excessive territorial claims.
The Stennis sailed from Washington State on January 15, while some of the other ships are based in the Asian Pacific region.
China was clearly unhappy with the move, accusing the United States of ratcheting up tensions in the region, even as U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said that China “is clearly militarizing the South China Sea.”
CBS News notes that “recent satellite images show military installations on China’s man-made islands in disputed waters of the South China Sea, despite assurances from China’s President Xi Jinping that it has no intention to militarize.”
CBS actually sent its own boat out for a peek at the disputed islands, which correspondent Seth Doane described as resembling “a city in the middle of the sea,” complete with “surface-to-air missile batteries” and “military-grade airfields.” U.S. officials say China recently moved fighter jets into the area.
However, the Navy Times quotes a spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress denying accusations that China has militarized the region, warning that such charges could “lead to a miscalculation of the situation” and insisting “it’s the U.S. sending the most advanced aircraft and military vessels to the South China Sea.”
While Navy spokespeople denied there was anything unusual or confrontational about the Stennis‘ mission, retired Navy captain and analyst Jerry Hendrix told the Navy Times that with a full carrier strike group and the 7th Fleet command ship Blue Ridge, “the Navy is showing the scope of its interests and ability to project presence and power around world.”