A United States aircraft carrier strike group has started patrolling the disputed waters of the South China Sea on Saturday amid growing tension with China over control of the conflicted waterway. The latest move could become a flashpoint under the new US administration. On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry of China warned Washington against challenging its sovereignty in the South China Sea. In response to this, the US navy said the force, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, began routine operations in the South China Sea and it was announced on the Facebook page of Vinson.
Rear Admiral James Kilby, the strike group's commander, said the few weeks of training in the Pacific Ocean had improved the effectiveness and readiness of the group. "We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," Navy News Service quoted Kilby as saying.
The rising tension between the United States and China over trade and territory under the rule of US President Donald Trump have increased concerns that the South China Sea could become a flashpoint.
On Friday, China wrapped up its own naval exercises in the South China Sea. Several war games involving its own aircraft carrier with the neighbouring countries have been turning into long-running territorial disputes.
China claims almost all of the of the resource-rich South China Sea where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Every year about $5 trillion worth of trade passes through the waterway.
An arbitral tribunal in The Hague ruled in July that China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis. The court criticised Beijing's environmental destruction in the disputed area. The ruling infuriated China and it refused to participate in the case. China denied to accept or recognise the tribunal's decision.
The United States has repeatedly criticised Beijing's construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea. It has expressed concern that they could be used to restrict free movement.