The emergence of US strategic warships, destroyers, and bombers in the East Sea (South China Sea) in recent weeks has shown the strong commitment of the US regarding security in the Asia Pacific, making China angry.
Hoang Ngoc Giao, director of the Institute for Policy, Law, and Development, commented to the BBC that the development of US naval ships and aircraft operating in the South China Sea has shown both US “consistent policy” and that a “warning” signal.
Mr. Giao analyzed: “The fact that the US has recently dispatched two strategic bombers of B1B Lancer to the South China Sea, flying from the US territory for more than 30 hours, represents a consistent US policy on ensuring freedom, security, maritime safety, as well as the security of the open and free Indo-Pacific strategy.”
“It confirms the consistency of the policy, as well as the determination of the US government to ensure the maintenance of peace, security, and stability in the region.”
“Second, this is also a move that can be interpreted as a warning to increasingly aggressive and provocative actions from China.”
“The US government has been very determined to follow its foreign and defense lines to ensure security in the region.”
The US since May 1 has sent four B-1B bombers with 200 servicemen from Dyess Air Base in Texas to Andersen Air Base, on Guam Island in the Pacific.
In particular, three US B-1B strategic bombers flew straight to Guam base in the Pacific, the remaining aircraft flew to Japan to train with US Navy in the region.
Not long ago, on April 30, two B-1B Lancer bombers, capable of carrying more weapons than the B-52, including JDAM guided bombs and anti-ship cruise missiles, came from the base at South America’s Dokota. It had flight maneuvers within 33 hours with a focus on the South China Sea.
On Facebook on April 29, the 7th Fleet of the Pacific Fleet announced that the USS Bunker Hill guided-missile cruiser “transited” in the waters near the Truong Sa (Spratlys) during a freedom of navigation operation (FONOPs).
The 7th Fleet’s post read: “USS Bunker Hill guided-missile cruiser (CG 52) Ticonderoga-class transited in waters near Spratlys in the South China Sea on April 29. Bunker Hill was deployed to the Fleet US 7th team to support security and stability activities in the Indo-Pacific region.”
A few hours earlier, the 7th Fleet also announced the operation of the USS Barry guided missile destroyer with similar activity in the Hoang Sa (Paracels), which is under Vietnamese sovereignty but was illegally occupied by China.
The moves of the USS Bunker Hill and USS Barry were noticeable in the context of the Chinese announcement that they had “expelled” an American warship operating in the Paracels.
This “deported” ship was identified as USS Barry. But in an interview with USNI News of the US Naval Academy, the US Navy official said that USS Barry operates as planned, “without any unsafe or unprofessional actions from Chinese military ships or machines.”
We should not judge that the claims of China and the US are equally valid. When China uses the term ‘deportation,’ it is a fabrication in the propaganda of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.”
The case once again reflects tensions between China and the US over maritime freedom issues in the South China Sea.
The US has long argued that its naval activities are in line with international law, as part of FONOPs’ freedom of navigation patrols. In contrast, China asserted that the US action was “a violation of its sovereignty.”
In addition to the purpose of exercising freedom of navigation, experts believe that the US has another motive when bringing the two warships USS Barry and USS Bunker Hill to Paracels in the middle of the tension between the two countries because the US accused China of mishandling and keeping the information of the coronavirus outbreak a secret when it just happened.
The US is proving that Washington can maintain its naval presence in the South China Sea in the context of China’s propaganda machinery taking advantage of the opportunity of US sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Kidd infected with the corona virus. China thinks that the US is operating in a weak position.
On the diplomatic front, in a remarkable move, on April 28, US Ambassador to Vietnam Mr. Daniel Kritenbrink openly told the Vietnamese media that the US strongly protested and condemned China’s “illegal and provocative” behavior in the South China Sea when taking advantage of the world and the region focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with the Voice of Vietnam Radio (VOV), Mr. Krintenbrink stated his position: “We strongly oppose and condemn China to take advantage of the countries in the region that are focusing on fighting against the pandemics to promote the illegal and provocative behavior in the South China Sea.”
“Instead of participating in fighting COVID-19 together with other countries, China has carried out many provocative acts in the region in the past few months, such as the sinking of Vietnamese fishing boats near the Hoang Sa, sending its ships to threaten ships of other countries and announcing the establishment of new administrative areas in Paracels and Spratlys. China has also set up “contemporary research stations” on Subi reef and Cross reef.”
“These are not acts of showing goodwill on our partners and they would not help China gain regional trust. I want to reiterate the point stated above, the US vehemently condemns and opposes China’s provocative behavior when taking advantage of the pandemic situation to promote illegal and aggressive behavior in order to achieve unreasonable demands.”
The US diplomat in Vietnam on this occasion emphasized the US view through the actions of two agencies, the State Department and the US Department of Defense, which called on the countries in the region “to come up voice against Chinese behavior” and reaffirmed US principles and views on regional security.
“The US Departments of State and Defense both issued statements condemning the act of using anti-pandemic focus by countries to promote China’s illegal claims,” he said.
“We believe that the most important thing now is that every country in the region needs to speak out against this behavior of China. In the two statements mentioned above, I would like to emphasize the statement of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo which highlights two important factors:
The first is reaffirming America’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and its partnership with Vietnam.
Secondly, I think that the statement of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also emphasized the power of the comprehensive Vietnam-US partnership … “.
The US ambassador to Hanoi called on nations to believe in the “principles and values” shared by the US, while emphasizing the common goal at the present time in the South China Sea and the region:
“… We urge all nations that believe in these principles and values to speak strong. That’s why the US is encouraging nations to oppose China’s wrongdoing and many of our partners and friends have done so.“
“I understand that Vietnam has issued a statement expressing concern about the provocative actions of China. The Philippines and many other partners in the region such as Australia and Japan have done the same. We are emphasizing that the most important thing at this time is the need to take measures to promote peace and prosperity in the region while focusing on coping with COVID-19, not on steps that could destabilize the region.“
It can be said that, on both diplomatic and military fronts, the US has shown its determination to pursue its commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region, including its relations with Vietnam-US comprehensive cooperation.
While U.S. freedom of navigation patrols over the years have come and gone without creating any decline in regional security and U.S. Navy presence, and welcomed by small countries in the regions, China has repeatedly conducted provocative acts in the South China Sea, and especially, it has taken advantage of the time when countries have to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic originating from China to increase illegal activities, serious violating international law.