The U.S. Navy is conducting annual exercises with India and Japan in the Western Pacific this week, a display of force meant to send a signal about the three powers’ commitment to freedom of the seas. But the events have been complicated by the presence of an uninvited Chinese spy ship. Reuters has more:
A Chinese observation ship shadowed the powerful US aircraft carrier, John C. Stennis, in the Western Pacific on Wednesday, a Japanese official said.
The Stennis, which has been followed by the Chinese ship since patrolling in the South China Sea, will sail apart from the other ships, acting as a “decoy” to draw it away from the eight-day naval exercise, a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force officer said, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The 100,000 ton Stennis, which carries F-18 fighter jets, joined nine other naval ships including a Japanese helicopter carrier and Indian frigates in seas off the Japanese Okinawan island chain. Sub-hunting patrol planes launched from bases in Japan are also participating in the joint annual exercise dubbed Malabar.
China’s intrusion into the Malabar exercises is just the latest in a series of naval events which have posed a direct challenged to Washington. High-profile anti-submarine exercises, freedom of navigation operations by air and sea, strengthening alliances with Vietnam and Myanmar: none of this has caused China to back down at all. In the face of continued Chinese misbehavior, where will the Obama Administration draw the line? And how will the Pentagon enforce it?
With everyone focused on Brexit and Orlando, not enough attention is being paid to rising tensions in Asia. A Chinese ship shadowing a U.S. aircraft carrier isn’t a huge event on its own, but these things add up, and each additional confrontation raises the stakes higher and makes the risks of a crisis developing even greater.