Asia Minute: Busy Times for International Ships in South China Sea

Feb 12, 2021

President Joe Biden spent two hours on the phone this week with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Wednesday's wide-ranging talk covered both some areas of dispute and those with the potential for cooperation. The initial phone call between the two leaders came near the end of a busy week in the South China Sea.

 

This week, for only the third time in the past nine years, two U.S. aircraft carrier groups held military exercises in the South China Sea this week. There was a similar move this past July, but these drills come at a time of increased activity in and around the waterway.

Within the last couple of weeks, a U.S. destroyer sailed near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands, while other U.S. warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

The commander of the USS Nimitz told reporters that activity from Chinese ships and aircraft in the region has risen “steadily” in the past few months.

In coming months, there will be more international activity. Britain will send a carrier group to the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait — joining maneuvers with the U.S. and Japan.

Germany plans to send a smaller naval contingent to the area later this year.

And the United States remains active in the broader region — along with its allies.

A French nuclear attack submarine completed a patrol through the South China Sea this week with France’s Armed Forces Minister tweeting it was “in connection with our Australian, American and Japanese strategic partners.”

Guam is another focus this week — with the U.S. leading joint exercises with Australia and Japan lasting through the end of next week.