US naval task force challenging China's sovereignty claims in South China Sea
For some reason, the American media seem to be ignoring a major military challenge to China currently underway. The Australian media, closer to the scene by several thousand miles, get it: this is big news. They are able to read through the official story ("multinational disaster response exercises") and highlight the confrontational nature of the operation currently underway.
Matt Young of News.com.au writes:
ALONG the South China Sea, a giant fleet of American ships, including a nuclear powered American aircraft carrier and its jet fighters, is on the move.
The $3.8 billion super ship is there for a specific reason – the United States Navy says it's all part of its largest multinational disaster response exercises in the Indo-Pacific region.
Yet while they are right, there seems to be another reason at play – local press suggests the move is a big 'F-you' to China, which has continued to build military infrastructure in the disputed region that includes hangars, underground storage and missile shelters.
This is despite a ruling from an international tribunal in The Hague that summarised China had no historic title over its waters.
The ship has been sailing through the disputed waters and local media is reporting jet fighters and helicopters engaging in missions "day and night" in the area, for reasons "ship officials refused to divulge".
The fleet centers on the USS Carl Vinson. The Vinson is the flagship of a strike group from the U.S. Third Fleet.
The USS Carl Vinson carries 72 aircraft, some of which are surveillance planes.
"When they put a carrier strike group somewhere it helps to show that the United States is interested," the ship's commanding officer, Captain Doug Verissimo, told the ABC.
Adam Harvey of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (state-owned and generally leftist) is a bit less colorful:
No-one on board will say it so bluntly, but the ship is sailing through the South China Sea to send a deliberate message: these waters aren't China's alone.
China has built airstrips and ports on reefs and shoals throughout the sea in defiance of a ruling from an international tribunal in the Hague.
"We want to keep laws and norms in place that we don't change the map along the way, to avoid frictions," Captain Verissimo said.
"As you change maps it creates new frictions and new issues."
He doesn't mention it by name, but the only nation trying to change the map out here is China, which has drawn a so-called "Nine Dash Line" around waters it claims as its own.
It doesn't want anyone going near any of its artificial islands.
My suspicion is that the American media don't want to publicize a measured show of strength by President Trump, because it makes him look strong but not reckless. The U.S. Navy is establishing a counterclaim to China's aggression, and in such a strong manner that China would be crazy to attack.
Score one for Trump – which is why you have to go to Australia to find out about it.
Hat tip: John McMahon