Two U.S. aircraft carrier groups entered the disputed South China SeaChina Sea for training, the Department of Defense said on Monday as Taiwan reported a new Chinese air force incursion at the top of the waterway, including a new electronic warfare jet.
The South China SeaChina Sea and self-governing Taiwan are two of China's most sensitive territorial issues and are frequent areas of tension between the United States and China.
U.S. Navy ships routinely sail close to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China SeaChina Sea to challenge Chinese sovereignty claims, as well as through the Taiwan Strait, to Beijing's anger.
The U.S. Department of Defense said the two U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups, led by their flagships USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln, had begun operations in the South China SeaChina Sea on Sunday.
It said that carrier groups will carry out exercises including anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations and maritime interdiction operations to strengthen combat readiness.
The Department of Defense said that the training will be conducted in accordance with international law in international waters.
Operations like these allow us to improve our combat credible capability, reassure our allies and partners, and demonstrate our resolve as a Navy to ensure regional stability and counter malign influence, it said. Anderson was the commander of the strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Both carrier groups were reported on Sunday by the U.S. Navy to have been exercising with Japan's navy in the Philippine Sea, an area that includes waters east of Taiwan.
The news of the U.S. operations coincides with Taiwan reporting the latest mass incursion by China s air force into its air defence identification zone 39 aircraft in an area close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the northern reaches of the South China SeaChina Sea.
Taiwan reported another 13 Chinese aircraft in the zone, one of which is an anti-submarine Y- 8, flying through the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan from the Philippines and connects the Pacific to the South China SeaChina Sea, according to a map provided by Taiwan's Defence Ministry.
The ministry added that two Chinese J- 16 Ds took part in the mission, although kept close to China s coast, a new electronic attack version of the J- 16 fighter designed to target anti-aircraft defences of the kind Taiwan would rely on to fend off an attack.
China has yet to comment on such missions, but it has previously stated that they were intended to protect its sovereignty and to prevent external interference in its sovereignty claims over democratically governed Taiwan.
Security sources previously told Reuters that China s flights into Taiwan's defence zone are likely to be a response to foreign military activity, especially by U.S. forces near the island, to warn that Beijing is watching and has the capability to handle any Taiwan contingencies.
Taiwan calls China's repeated military activities grey zone warfare, designed to wear out Taiwan's forces by making them repeatedly scramble and test Taiwan's responses.
The South China SeaChina Sea, bordered by vital shipping lanes and also containing gas fields and rich fishing grounds, is claimed by Taiwan, while Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim parts.