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China slams US for sending aircraft carriers to disputed sea

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A file photo of US aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (By Reuters)

Beijing has slammed the United States for sending its aircraft carriers to the disputed waters of South China Sea, where the Chinese military was holding naval drills, saying the provocative move is aimed at driving a wedge between regional countries.

Addressing a press briefing on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Washington had “deliberately” sent the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz aircraft carriers to the South China Sea to “flex its muscles.”

The Americans, he added, “have ulterior motives. The US is creating division among nations in the region and militarizing the South China Sea,” nine tenths of which is claimed by China.

The two US carriers arrived in the region on Saturday for “military exercises” as China was wrapping up its own naval drills near the disputed Xisha islands, called Paracel islands by China’s rivals, who have overlapping sovereignty claims to the resource-rich sea.

Speaking to Reuters on Monday, the commander of the USS Nimitz, Rear Admiral James Kirk, said the two American aircraft carriers were conducting “exercises” in the contested sea within sight of Chinese naval vessels spotted near the US navy’s flotilla.

“They have seen us and we have seen them,” Kirk said.

The US military said on Twitter that B52 bombers were also involved in the exercise.

Earlier, Rear Admiral George Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan, said the military move was to “show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability.”

Apparently reacting to the deployment, China on Friday slammed “non-regional countries” for traveling a long distance to conduct large-scale military activities in the South China Sea, stressing that such provocative moves in Chinese territorial waters were the source of tensions and instability in the region.

The US — which sides with China’s rivals in their territorial claims — says such military operations are meant to protect “freedom of navigation” in the sea, a gateway for trillions of dollars in maritime trade each year.

China warns Canada over Hong Kong move

Elsewhere in his comments, the Chinese official delivered a warning to Canada after the Ottawa government said it was suspending an extradition treaty with Hong Kong as part of a package of responses to the new security law recently introduced by mainland China in the semi-autonomous region.

Beijing, he said, viewed the decision as interference in its domestic affairs and reserved the right to take additional action in response to Canada, without giving more details.

Separately, Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Friday that Ottawa was implementing several measures in regard to the new Hong Kong national security law.

According to the official, in addition to suspending the extradition treaty, sensitive exports to the special administrative region will be treated the same as they were going to China.

Champagne noted that the trade of military items of the same nature will no longer be permitted with Hong Kong.

Canada and a number of Western countries have harshly criticized the new national security law for Hong Kong, which was enacted on Tuesday and which they say harms the city’s semi-autonomous status. Beijing rejects the allegation.

The new security legislation criminalizes sedition, secession, and subversion against mainland China, and allows Chinese national security institutions to operate in the city for the first time since 1997, when Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule.

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