A US Navy aircraft carrier conducted exercises in the South China Sea on Friday. The USS Ronald Reagan led a strike group in the contested waters that conducted “maritime air defense operations,” according to a US Navy statement.
On Sunday, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) released footage of a Hong Kong-based warship taking part in a live-fire exercise in the South China sea. Beijing-based analysts told The South China Morning Post that the PLA’s exercise was likely aimed at Taiwan, as the island’s warming ties to Washington are increasing.
Last week, US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taipei and met with Taiwan’s president, making Azar the highest-level US official to visit the island since 1979. After the visit, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen said the relationship between the US and Taiwan has “never been closer.”
The South China Sea has seen a significant uptick in US military activity in recent months. Twice in July, two US Navy aircraft carriers were deployed to the waters to lead massive exercises. July also saw a record-breaking number of US military aircraft flights near China’s coast.
The increased military activity came with the Trump administration formally rejecting most of Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea. The waters have turned into a major flashpoint as US-China relations have rapidly deteriorated in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.