The strategic South China Sea has long been a contentious waterway for the countries surrounding it, growing even more so as China demonstrates its growing naval muscle power in what it regards as its own backyard.
In the name of “freedom of the seas”, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt led its battle group into the sea on Saturday, the US military said, just days after Joe Biden became US president.
“The US frequently sends aircraft and vessels into the South China Sea to flex its muscles,” foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, told reporters, in response. “This is not conducive to peace and stability in the region.”
China repeatedly complains about US Navy ships getting close to islands it occupies in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims.
The carrier group entered the South China Sea just as Taiwan air defences reported further incursions by Chinese military aircraft overflying the island, prompting concern from Washington.
China has not commented on what its air force was doing, and Zhao referred questions to the defence ministry.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited a radar base in the north of the island on Monday, and praised its ability to track Chinese forces, reports Reuters.
“From last year until now, our radar station has detected nearly 2,000 communist aircraft and more than 400 communist ships, allowing us to quickly monitor and drive them away, and fully guard our sea and airspace,” she told officers.
The US, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is the democratic island’s most important international supporter and main arms supplier, much to Beijing’s anger.
Former president Donald Trump demonstrated firm support for Taiwan and Biden’s new administration says the US commitment to Taiwan is “rock-solid”.