The U.S. military said on Friday that Chinese military flights in the past week in the South China Sea fit a pattern of destabilizing and aggressive behavior by Beijing but posed no threat to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group in the region.
“The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group closely monitored all People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and Air Force (PLAAF) activity, and at no time did they pose a threat to U.S. Navy ships, aircraft, or sailors,” the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said in a statement.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chinese aircraft did not come within 250 nautical miles (460 km) of the U.S. Navy vessels. Taiwan reported that several Chinese air force aircraft flew into the southwestern corner of its air defense identification zone last weekend, near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, including fighter jets and nuclear-capable H-6 bombers.
Regional security and diplomatic sources familiar with the situation said China’s air force was dispatched on missions beginning mid-morning on Jan. 23, coinciding with the U.S. carrier group passing south of the Pratas.
China, which has long geared its military towards defending itself against the United States, was conducting exercises that would simulate an operation against an aircraft carrier, the sources said.
“They purposely conducted the drills when the U.S. carrier was passing through the Bashi Channel,” one source said, referring to the waterway between southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines.