The US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson docked in Singapore this week in what appears to be a military plan in the region as heightened tensions between the Philippines and China signal a potential escalation.
It is not unusual for US aircraft carriers to make port calls to Singapore, a traditional regional ally of the US. The media was invited to cover the carrier strike group’s docket in Singapore. But officials did not say where the nuclear-powered war machine went.
Along with the aircraft carrier Vinson, America’s „Carrier Strike Group One” is said to include Navy ships, guided-missile destroyers and a missile cruiser. While these ships are usually stationed in California, they do not travel on global operational missions.
„Questions about foreign policy and future operations, I refer those questions to our higher headquarters,” Nikkei quoted Rear Adm. Carlos Sardiello as saying. „I can tell you that Carrier Strike One is trained and rehearsed to be lethal and survivable, and we can carry out our full range of operations in support of the higher headquarters mission.”
USS Carl Vinson, one of 11 aircraft carriers in service in the Navy, is the third Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier based in San Diego, California. The ship can carry around sixty attack fighters, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which can take off and land on the carrier at sea.
Although United States officials described the recent docking as routine, the presence of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the region comes at a critical time. Tensions have risen between US ally the Philippines and China in recent months, with the latter reportedly threatening and confronting Philippine ships on patrols to shore up the disputed Second Thomas Shoal.
Because China claims the entire South China Sea, it often conducts operations aimed at preventing other claimants in the area from operating in the disputed territory. However, clashes between these two states, previously few and far between, have become more frequent in recent months.
Philippine officials said a Chinese coast guard ship and a warship collided with a Philippine coast guard ship and a military-operated supply boat at sea. The outbreak raises fears of a potential conflict in the disputed South China Sea. https://t.co/s0ciHaRBnN
— Associated Press (@AP) October 22, 2023
Indeed, in recent months, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels carrying out reinforcement operations for military vessels have been attacked by Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels, often training water cannons.
The crisis erupted in late October when a Chinese Coast Guard ship and its auxiliary attacked a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) craft and a military-run supply boat that both sides claimed. In addition to these potentially violent exchanges, Beijing continues to narrate that Manila is provoking them.
Therefore, the presence of an American carrier at this time is interpreted as a signal to China. Days after Chinese vessels threatened and blocked Philippine Coast Guard vessels from passing in late October, US President Joe Biden reiterated his „iron-clad” security commitment to the Philippines. He warned Beijing that the US would come to the Philippines’ support if an attack was launched in the South China Sea (SCS).
Earlier this month, Philippine ships were targeted with water cannons by Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ships during a resupply mission to PRP Sierra Madre, one of which was hit. One of the two supply boats, ML Kalayaan, was towed back to port after being heavily damaged by Chinese high-intensity water cannon fire.
After this, Chinese ships carried out a rare „invasion” of the second Thomas Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, a maritime security expert says, „a calculated invasion by Beijing” after disrupting a Philippine resupply mission in the same waters. Eleven Chinese naval warships were spotted in a Philippine-controlled shoal a day after a tense supply run.
Against that backdrop, the timing of the US carriers docking in the region and making a statement is significant. Singapore, for one, shares a good relationship with the US and buys F-35 stealth jets from US defense giant Lockheed Martin.
However, the US carrier has not visited Manila recently, although it has visited Manila in the past. For example, another Nimitz-class US aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Arrived in Manila At the end of October. At that time, the aircraft carrier was joined by the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Robert Smalls (CG 62) and USS Antietam (CG 54).
US carriers sail in turbulent regions
The U.S. Navy routinely sends its aircraft carriers, the backbone of its naval fleet, to volatile regions as a means of deterring its adversaries and projecting power. Carriers sail distant seas in peacetime, but mainly during certain tensions, as is currently evident in the SCS.
The last nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to dock in Singapore was the USS Nimitz’s port call in the Southeast Asian nation in January. Prior to that, the USS Ronald Reagan made a brief visit in July 2022 and then made a quick trip to the Philippine Sea in early August 2022 to escort House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan.
In November, amid tensions over North Korea’s rocket launch of a space satellite, the nuclear-powered carrier-based carrier Strike Group One, a symbol of US military might, made a port call in South Korea. US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson arrived November 21 at a port in the South Korean city of Busan. Although the US Navy has stopped short of releasing these details, the carrier may have gone from there to Singapore.
However, US carriers often sail to the Indo-Pacific region, to the consternation of the People’s Liberation Army, which labels it provocation. For example, USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and its strike group enabled South China Sea in April and Philippine Sea in May. Following this, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group began operating in the South China Sea in June 2023.
As part of the Indo-Pacific Command’s (INDOPACOM) Large-Scale Global Exercise 2023 (LSGE23), the two carrier strike groups conducted exercises with Japanese, French and Canadian ships from June 7-10 in the Philippines and East China Sea.
In late June, the USS Ronald Reagan carrier visited Vietnam, another Southeast Asian state. Aircraft carrier is reported A Chinese survey vessel arrived in the central Vietnamese city of Danang, weeks after several coast guard vessels and fishing boats sailed through Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
The US often sends its carriers to areas where its adversaries are aggressive and active. For example, George HW Bush’s carrier strike team was deployed for eight months, and Harry S. The Truman Carrier Strike Group was stationed in the Mediterranean Sea for nine months after the Russo-Ukraine War.
Most recently, the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group was deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean near the coast of Israel, and a few days later, on October 7, it came under an unprecedented attack by Hamas. Another aircraft carrier attack group was the USS. Dwight D. Eisenhower joined Ford a few days later.
However, the presence of these carriers in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in the disputed South and East China Seas, may be more significant as they irritate regional giant China and reinforce Washington’s message of support for the latter’s regional adversary.
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