China

South China Sea: US carrier group begins 'routine' patrols

The USS Carl Vinson in the Pacific Ocean, 3 February Image copyright AFP
Image caption The USS Carl Vinson is no stranger to the region

US aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson has started what it calls "routine operations" in the South China Sea, with a fleet of supporting warships.

The deployment comes days after China's foreign ministry warned Washington against challenging Beijing's sovereignty in the region.

China claims several contested shoals, islets and reefs in the area.

It has been constructing artificial islands with airstrips in the South China Sea for a number of years.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption China has built islands on reefs and, says a think tank, is building military facilities on some

The aircraft carrier was last in the South China Sea two years ago, for exercises with Malaysia's navy and air force and has made 16 voyages to the region in its 35 years of US navy service.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis said during a recent trip to Japan that the Trump administration saw no need for "dramatic military moves" at the stage.

The statement appeared to repudiate comments on the subject from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who told senators during his confirmation hearings that China should be prevented from reaching the disputed islands.

On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: "We urge the US not to take any actions that challenge China's sovereignty and security."

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