July 6 (EIRNS)—A B-52H bomber flying from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana joined the two U.S. aircraft carrier groups—the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan and their accompanying escorts—on exercise in the Philippine Sea/South China Sea yesterday and at the end of it landed in Guam. The B-52 flew the 28-hour mission “to demonstrate U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s commitment to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region,” reported a U.S. Air Force press release.
The B-52 flight did not go unnoticed in China. Wang Ya’nan, an expert on aircraft and chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge, told the Global Times on Sunday that it is not a coincidence but collusion between the redeployment of B-52H and the maritime drill in the South China Sea in order to display the U.S.’ long-range strike force in Guam. It is also aimed to show the muscle of U.S. aircraft carrier battle group. Wang said that the U.S. military is apparently aiming to “show off its muscle.” “By conducting massive military exercises in the South China Sea, they intend to show their forces more clearly to China,” Wang said.
This was echoed by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian who said during the ministry’s regular press briefing today: “At present, thanks to the joint efforts by China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and witnessing sound development. In these circumstances, it is completely out of ulterior motives that the U.S. flexes its muscles by purposely sending powerful military force to the relevant waters for large-scale exercises. The U.S. intends to drive a wedge between regional countries, promote militarization of the South China Sea and undermine peace and stability in the region.”
Indeed, it appears that the U.S. exercise is intended to be highly visible to the Chinese with Chinese naval vessels reported to be within visual range of the U.S. aircraft carriers. “They have seen us and we have seen them,” Rear Adm. James Kirk, commander of the Nimitz strike group, told Reuters in a telephone interview from the Nimitz. He said he expects, though, that any encounters between the two navies to be professional and safe.
Rear Adm. George Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan, said in an interview that the purpose of the drills was to “show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability.” Wikoff said that the latest U.S. drills were a response not to the Chinese ones but to Beijing’s rising military assertiveness in the region. While the U.S. Navy has insisted that the dual carrier exercise was planned long in advance, it nonetheless occurred nearly simultaneously with a PLA Navy exercise in the South China Sea that concluded on July 5.