Meanwhile, one senior military commander has urged Washington to back off, while China’s Southern Theatre Command warned: “There is no way to shake the PLA [People’s Liberation Army].” Beijing claims roughly 90 percent of the important strategic waterway in the South China Sea, and has been accused of bullying neighbouring countries in South East Asia including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
South China Sea is fully within grasp of the #PLA
Earlier this month the US military deployed the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups to undertake dual carrier operation amid China’s drills around the disputed Paracel Islands, referred to by China as the Xisha Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam.
State-run newspaper the Global Times, a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, tweeted: “China has a wide selection of anti-aircraft carrier weapons like DF-21D and DF-26 ‘aircraft carrier killer’ #missiles.
“South China Sea is fully within grasp of the #PLA; any US #aircraftcarrier movement in the region is at the pleasure of PLA: analysts.”
Two Chinese jet fighters during a military drill in the South China Sea near China’s Hainan Island
US aircraft over the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force
In a comment piece carried in the PLA Daily newspaper today, Zhang Junshe, a senior colonel in the Chinese navy, said Beijing would not back down on the question of maritime sovereignty, and said the US needed to back off.
He added: “The US is not a country in the region and it is doing large-scale exercises in the South China Sea, far away from its homeland, yet at the same time it is unreasonably accusing China of doing normal military exercises at its doorstep.
“The double-standard remarks from the US cannot disguise its real motives, which is to push militarisation and destabilise peace in the South China Sea.”
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Sailors watch the USS Ronald Reagan from the USS Nimitz
In a statement issued via its official WeChat account, Southern Theatre Command said: “Chinese efforts to stabilise regional peace – while facing a US that is intent on making the South China Sea issue difficult – should be respected.
“It is easy to shake a mountain, but there is no way to shake the PLA.”
The US has already offered several clear indications of its refusal to be cowed.
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Fiery Cross Reef, one of many fortified Chinese islands in the South China Sea
A fighter jet takes off from the USS Nimitz
In a statement issued on July 2, the US Department of Defense said Chinese military exercises around the Paracel Islands represented a violation of an ongoing commitment to avoid actions which would “complicate or escalate disputes”.
Separately, and in response to the Global Times tweet, the US Navy’s chief of information posted: “And yet, there they are.
“Two @USNavy aircraft carriers operating in the international waters of the South China Sea. #USSNimitz & #USSRonaldReagan are not intimidated.”
South China Sea mapped
Speaking about the ongoing US military exercises, a spokesman for the USS Reagan Carrier Strike Group declared: “High-end integrated exercises build unmatched flexibility, endurance, manoeuvrability and firepower in an all-domain warfighting environment.
“These efforts support enduring US commitments to stand up for the right of all nations to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.”
China has backed up its sovereignty claims by building fortifications on numerous uninhabited islands in the South China Sea.
US vs China militaries compared
Speaking last month, Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP for Bournemouth, who is a member of Parliament’s China Research Group warned a minor confrontation in the region could easily escalate into a major one.
He added: “Ultimately they are creating fortresses across the South China Sea and nobody is challenging them on that, despite international law saying otherwise.
“Once they have got a military presence there they then can use that to expand their own footprint to challenge anybody that comes through.
“It’s getting more and more aggressive – we send ships through occasionally but they are treated with such hostility that you can easily see a minor conflict spiralling out of control.”