A U.S. aircraft carrier group is preparing to sail through the contested South China Sea later this month, and observers expect an angry Beijing to register its opposition and quicken its militarization of small islands in the region.
The group of ships led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy is plying the South China Sea after a mid-February port call in Manila where some of the 5,500 crew members offered humanitarian aid, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
A U.S. Navy statement says the group came for, “promoting freedom of the seas and enhancing regional security,” as well as working with allies in the region.
That’s not the message likely to be received by Beijing, which regards about 90 percent of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer waterway as its own.
Those claims are disputed by five militarily weaker claimants: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. The United States does not claim territory in the region, but regularly patrols the waters to ensure that they remain open for commercial traffic.