Recent Activity in the South China Sea


Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Voice of America
Map of the region.

With all the cold weather here in Philadelphia, I’m sure we are all dreaming of warm weather and sunny beaches. Recently, there has been activity out at sea other than tourists enjoying a vacation. Activity in the South China Sea could be increasing tension between the United States and China. Over the past few months, China has been unhappy with U.S. Naval ships sailing in the South China Sea near islands claimed by China. There have been claims of the U.S. purposefully trying to increase tension with China but, when asked, Rear Admiral Jim Kirk, commander of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, assured that the U.S. is only focusing on lawful use of the sea.

         Recently in the South China Sea, China complained that two U.S. aircraft carrier strike teams were allegedly doing tactical drills. The commanders of the U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups had a conference call. Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt strike group, made it clear that they were focusing on tactical proficiency and working to improve how well the two ships, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Nimitz, can work together. He emphasized there was no malicious intent. Verissimo went on to explain the reason for the drill in that location and at that time was because of the travel plans of each ship. The Nimitz was preparing to head home after a 250 day deployment. As the Nimitz was on its way home, the Theodore Roosevelt arrived to patrol the area. The Commanders decided it would be efficient to perform a drill because the ships were crossing paths.

The tension between the U.S. and China in the South China Sea is not something new. The U.S. has accused China of showing military force in the South China Sea to intimidate its neighbors, such as the Philippines and Malaysia. Similarly, China has accused the U.S. of using its navy as a “show of force.” As we enter President Joe Biden’s second month as president, the U.S.’s relationship with China may be on the path to significant change. President Biden, along with Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin, has used the first few weeks of the new administration to improve the U.S.’s international relations. The U.S. has contacted many countries including Canada, The United Kingdom, France, Japan and China. On Feb. 6, 2021, President Biden and President Xi Jinping had their first conversation of the Biden presidency. The American public should keep an eye out for future discussions between President Biden and President Xi Jinping as they sort out how the U.S. and China will address a relationship dealing with the countries’ economies, human rights and military competition.

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