BEIJING – Beijing accused the United States on Monday of having “ulterior motives” for sending two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea while the Chinese navy was conducting naval exercises.
The US has sent the vessels USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz to the disputed waters to carry out exercises starting on Saturday while China has also been conducting naval practices in the area.
It was one of the largest drills by the US navy in recent years and it is unusual for both countries to conduct naval exercises at the same time in the same region.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the situation in the South China Sea was stable, but accused the US of trying to create problems between China and its southeast Asian neighbors.
“The US intentionally sent a military deployment for large-scale exercises in the South China Sea, and to show off its muscle,” Zhao said.
“They have ulterior motives. The US is creating division among nations in the region and militarizing the South China Sea.”
The US deployment came after China started drills from Wednesday which ran until Sunday near the disputed Paracels Islands, a third of the way from central Vietnam to the northern Philippines.
Rear Admiral George Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan, said in an interview with the US press that the purpose of the exercises was to “show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability.”
He added that they were a response to Beijing’s growing military assertiveness in the area and not in answer to China’s exercises.
The US military said on Twitter that B52 bombers were also involved in the exercise and that the two groups would not be intimidated by China.
Several articles and editorials in the Chinese official press stated Beijing was prepared to face Washington’s “threats.”
State-controlled newspaper the Global Times quoted several military experts who said Beijing has full control over the situation.
“China has a wide selection of anti-aircraft carrier weapons like DF-21D and DF-26 ‘aircraft carrier killer’ missiles,” the newspaper wrote.
Official media also reported that China has carried out ballistic missile and anti-ship missile exercises in the central region of the South China Sea last year in preparation for attacks by aircraft carriers from foreign countries.