The drills appear to be a direct response to the USS Ronald Reagan being present in regional waters, given China often holds short-notice exercises in response to what Beijing sees as US naval “provocations”. The past days and weeks have already witnessed snap exercises near the Paracel Islands, after two weeks ago the US sailed the USS Benfold destroyer past the China-claimed islands, angering Beijing.
Bloomberg is confirming on Thursday of the USS Reagan, “A US aircraft carrier and strike group have entered the South China Sea as part of what the 7th Fleet said was a scheduled operation amid rising tensions with China over a potential Taiwan visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
It entered the disputed waters after “a five-day port call to Singapore, departing Changi Naval Base on Tuesday, the US 7th Fleet said,” Bloomberg details further. And more:
The trip follows remarks this week by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian that Beijing was getting “seriously prepared” for the possibility that Pelosi could visit Taiwan, a self-governing island that China considers part of its territory.
Taiwan is currently holding its own large-scale simulated drills, the annual week-long Han Kuang exercises, which focus on preparing a civil emergency as well as military response to a theoretical Chinese PLA invasion.
USS Ronald Reagan spotted in the South China Sea today, followed by some Chinese warships. pic.twitter.com/QsobRNttmS
— Duan Dang (@duandang) July 28, 2022
“In simulated scenes, a hostile enemy attempts to seize control of a key waterway close to the Taiwanese capital. Attacking from sea and air, the invading forces target the mouth of the Tamsui River on the island’s northern coast – a strategic estuary that provides direct access to the center of Taipei,” CNN writes of ongoing exercises. “In response, Taiwan’s military scrambles Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) jets and tanks, while ground troops detonate explosives to stop the advancement.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are holding a much anticipated phone call, their fifth since Biden entered office, where geopolitical flashpoints Taiwan and Ukraine are expected to top the list of things discussed.
At the same time, Chinese state media are running op-eds sounding the alarm that a “major incident” could be imminent in the South China Sea – and that Washington would be solely to blame if it does.