MESOPOTAMIA NEWS FRICTIONS: U.S. Navy Carries Out Exercise in South China Sea

Two U.S. aircraft carrier groups held joint drills in the South China Sea amid tensions between Washington and Beijing, which claims much of the waterway. The operation was the first of its kind (Al Jazeera) since July and occurred days after a U.S. vessel conducted a so-called freedom of navigation operation in the sea, drawing ire from China. In a call with reporters, the carriers’ commanders said Chinese military capacity in the South China Sea has recently increased (FT) but emphasized that the joint exercise did not target any country.

China’s Foreign Ministry pledged to take “necessary measures” to defend the country’s sovereignty and security. Chinese state media also suggested that the exercises were symbolic, rather than for a military purpose, a claim the U.S. commanders denied. The United States and its allies have increased pressure (SCMP) on China over the South China Sea. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that the United States will hold China “accountable for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

“There is the possibility of an accidental sea or air collision, but it’s unlikely a war will break out,” Nanjing University’s Zhu Feng tells the South China Morning Post.

“The United States has a strong interest in preventing China from asserting control over the South China Sea. Maintaining free and open access to this waterway is not only important for economic reasons, but also to uphold the global norm of freedom of navigation,” Georgetown University’s Oriana Skylar Mastro writes in a CFR Contingency Planning Memorandum.