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US warships conduct exercises in South China Sea
An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Jan. 23, 2021. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest forward deployed fleet, with its approximate 50-70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and 20,000 Sailors in the area of operations at any given time, 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific area of operations to foster maritime security, promote stability, and prevent conflict alongside 35 other maritime nations and partners.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular

US warships conduct exercises in South China Sea

(Agence France-Presse) - January 25, 2021 - 5:27pm

WASHINGTON, United States — A US aircraft carrier group sailed into the South China Sea on a so-called "freedom of navigation" exercise, the first routine operation in the region under new President Joe Biden.

Led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier strike group entered the area Saturday, the US Indo-Pacific Command said, the same day Taiwan reported multiple Chinese jets and bombers had flown into its air defense zone.

"It's great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners," said Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine.

Beijing lays claims to nearly all of the South China Sea — despite Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also saying parts belong to them. 

China's foreign ministry spokesman called the routine US exercises a "show of force and not conducive to the peace and stability of the region".

The South China Sea is a strategic waterway and also believed to have valuable oil and gas deposits. 

Beijing has moved aggressively to turn reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes, angering nations which also stake claims in the area.  

The US operation comes days after Washington said its commitment to Taiwan is "rock-solid", the first comments from the Biden administration on the democratic island.

Taiwan split from China at the end of a civil war in 1949 and exists under the constant threat of invasion by the mainland, whose leaders have vowed to one day take it.

Beijing balks at any official contacts with Taiwan and tries to keep the island diplomatically isolated.

The US remains Taiwan's most important unofficial ally, however, and is bound by an act of Congress to sell it weapons to defend itself.

President Donald Trump embraced warmer ties with the island as he feuded with China over trade, and his successor is also expected to remain tough on Beijing.

CHINA SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED STATES US NAVY
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