Two US naval attack groups in the region. Trump administration: Sanctions on state enterprises that help Chinese military forces. The Asian giant challenges Washington's maritime power by building two new aircraft carriers.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - There is high tension in the South China Sea between the United States and China. US aircraft carriers Nimitz and Ronald Reagan, with their respective combat groups, are operational in the strategic waterway, which Beijing claims almost entirely.
Washington's two naval forces reached the region in early July, when the Chinese were conducting a massive naval exercise around the Paracel islands.
On July 13, without mincing words, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Chinese claims on this vast body of water are "completely illegal".
The United States maintains that Beijing's territorial claims threaten the freedom of navigation and air space in the area where the Chinese have occupied and militarized numerous coral atolls and sandy banks.
Chinese warships and coast guards, along with maritime militia vessels, frequently operate in these waters, also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Indonesia.
The following day, US secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, David Stilwell, revealed that the Trump administration could impose sanctions on Chinese state-owned enterprises that help the People's Liberation Army strengthen its presence in contested waters. Stilwell accused the Chinese government of using its public companies to intimidate other Southeast Asia nations and thus ensure control of mineral and hydrocarbon resources.
Beijing immediately launched a counterattack, dismissing the US accusations. On July 14, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that US naval operations in the South China Sea violate China's territorial sovereignty, threatening national security.
According to experts, China wants to gain control of the region to better defend its coastal provinces, where its main military and industrial assets are located. To achieve this goal, by 2035, Beijing has set its sights on equaling US naval power in the western Pacific.
The Middle Empire is stepping up the construction of new aircraft carriers, which have been the flagship of the US Navy.
The South China Morning Post reports today that China is building two modern naval units of this type; one of the two should be launched within a year. At the moment, Beijing can deploy the Russian-made aircraft carrier Liaoning; another aircraft carrier, Shandong, is still being tested. The United States owns 11.