Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 9 February 2021


U.S. and France flex muscles in South China Sea, raising Beijing’s ire


The simultaneous French action seems to chime with Biden’s preference for working with allies when dealing with China

A U.S. Navy helicopter landing on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz. GETTY IMAGES
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Two U.S. carrier groups are conducting exercises in the waters disputed by China, raising Beijing’s ire just as France announced one of its attack submarines had sailed through the zone.

  • The aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Nimitz “conducted a multitude of exercises aimed at increasing interoperability between assets as well as command and control capabilities,” the U.S. Navy said.
  • This came days after the USS John S. McCain was sent to “assert navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands,” an archipelago disputed by Vietnam, Taiwan and China.
  • French defense minister Florence Parly said on Monday night that a French attack submarine and its support vessel had just sailed through the South China Sea to reaffirm, together with Australia, Japan and the U.S., that “international law is the only rule that matters.”
  • International powers have contested China’s ambitions on most of the resource-rich area, after Beijing built military outposts on reefs and sandbars transformed into man-made islands to claim sovereignty on the 12-mile zone of territorial waters.

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