US Navy chief of operations Admiral John Richardson addressed the Center for a New American Security today, talking up the deployment of a pair of US aircraft carriers east of the Philippines as a key “show of strength” aimed at China.
The carriers were nominally sent to the area for “defensive air combat training,” but officials have throughout the process reiterated that it is aimed at China, and proves a military commitment to oppose China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China is one of seven nations with conflicting claims in the South China Sea, and the US backs all the other nations to their extent their claims conflict with China’s. The US Navy has made it a point to repeatedly sail very close to Chinese-claimed islands in the sea, and to publicize those moves as “challenges” to China.
Two-carrier operations in the Pacific are fairly common, with similar operations happening in 2014 and 2012. The primary difference this time is a rhetorical one, as the previous operations were not heavily publicized, and this time the Navy is eager to present it as a huge deal.