US Flexes Muscles at Beijing With Massive Navy Exercise

July 8th, 2020 - by Dave DeCamp /

US Military Aircraft Continue to Fly Reconnaissance Missions Just South of Taiwan, Over the Bashi Channel

Dave DeCamp /

 (July 5, 2020) — The US Navy conducted massive drills in the South China Sea on Saturday, with two aircraft carriers involved in the exercises. According to The Wall Street Journal, hundreds of jets, helicopters, and surveillance planes took off from the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan in Washington’s largest military drills in the region in recent years.

“The Nimitz Carrier Strike Force celebrated Independence Day with unmatched sea power while deployed to the South China Sea conducting dual carrier operations and exercises in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

The exercise is a show of force aimed at Beijing, who held its own drills over the weekend near the Paracel Islands, a disputed archipelago that China, Vietnam, and Taiwan all lay claim to. China’s build-up of military and research facilities on the Paracel Islands and the Spratly islands, another contested archipelago, has drawn the ire of Washington. 

Since 2015, the US has run what it calls Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea, increasing tensions in the region. The FONOPs usually involve sailing a warship near the contested archipelagos and always draw sharp condemnation from Beijing.

“The fundamental cause of instability in the South China Sea is the large-scale military activities and flexing of muscles by some non-regional country that lies tens of thousands of miles away,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on Friday.

The Bashi Channel, a waterway just south of Taiwan, has turned into another flashpoint for the US and China. Friday marked the 13th day in a row that US military aircraft flew over the Bashi Channel. The South China Morning Post reported that the US sent six large reconnaissance aircraft and two refueling tankers on Friday’s mission. The planes were reportedly searching for Chinese submarines in the area.

China, US Trade Barbs Over South China Sea Naval Exercise

US Navy Chief of Information fires back at Chinese state media on Twitter

Dave DeCamp /

(July 6, 2020) — China accused the US of having “ulterior motives” after Washington ran its largest military exercise in the South China Sea in years over the weekend. The exercise coincided with Chinese Naval drills held in the same area near the Paracel Islands, a disputed archipelago.

The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet ran the exercise, which involved two aircraft carriers, under the guise of supporting “a free and open Indo-Pacific.” But China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said the US was just looking to “show off its muscles.”

“The US intentionally sent a military deployment for large-scale exercises in the South China Sea, and to show off its muscle,” Zhao said. “They have ulterior motives. The US is creating division among nations in the region and militarizing the South China Sea.”

Global Times, a nationalist Chinese state-funded media outlet, tweeted on Saturday that China has “a large selection of anti-aircraft carrier weapons” and said they have “aircraft carrier killer” missiles. The Global Times also said any US aircraft carrier “movement in the region is at the pleasure” of China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA).

The US Navy’s Chief of Information Twitter account retweeted the Global Times tweet about the missiles on Sunday and said the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz are “not intimidated.” The US Navy also posted a meme on Instagram that suggests it has no plans of staying out of the South China Sea.

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