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US Aircraft Carrier’s Presence in the South China Sea Raises Concerns

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According to reports, a US aircraft carrier has entered the South China Sea, a move that experts argue sends the wrong signal to the Philippines amidst the country’s repeated provocations on Chinese islands and reefs in the region.

The US Navy’s Carl Vinson carrier strike group departed from Singapore after a port visit and is now operating in the South China Sea, as reported by USNI News. This carrier strike group is one of the few extra-regional naval forces currently active in Southeast Asia during the Christmas period, while other navies have already completed their deployments.

Some military experts believe that the US’s decision to keep an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea during this time is a deliberate attempt to keep the South China Sea issue hot and maintain its military presence in the region. However, this show of military force in sensitive waters amidst tensions is seen by experts as contrary to peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Chen Xiangmiao, the director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, suggests that US aircraft carrier activity in the South China Sea is nothing new. Such actions are usually aimed at deterring China and showing support to US allies to consolidate US hegemony.

The entry of the US carrier into the South China Sea at this time can further escalate tensions between China and the Philippines and send a wrong message to the Philippines. It could, in fact, incite Manila to take more extreme actions that escalate conflicts with China.

Since August, the Philippines has repeatedly sent vessels to illegally trespass into waters near Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea. These attempts have been confronted by the China Coast Guard. The Philippines has been particularly focused on Ren’ai Jiao (also known as Ren’ai Reef) and has made several attempts to send building materials to reinforce an old warship that was grounded there illegally.

In response to the recent tensions, the Philippines accused China of carrying out dangerous maneuvers and committing violations. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs retaliated by stating that the Philippines is no longer honoring its commitments, violating international law and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. China emphasized that it would protect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and called on the Philippines to return to dialogue and consultation to properly handle the situation.

Experts argue that the Philippines is making a strategic misjudgment by underestimating China’s determination to safeguard its rights and stability in the South China Sea. Relying on the US, which sees the Philippines as a pawn, may not align with its national interests.

While the US Navy used to conduct provocative large-scale carrier exercises in the South China Sea, that has changed in recent years. The US carriers tend to avoid staying in the region for extended periods to mitigate risks since China has the capability to target large warships near its waters, affecting the survivability of aircraft carriers. Consequently, US carrier activities in the South China Sea now serve more as political and diplomatic tools rather than actual military instruments.

Experts urge the Philippines to make independent decisions that align with its national interests and not rely solely on the US, which may not have the Philippines’ best interests at heart.

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