A United States official told CNN that a Chinese warship was following a U.S. aircraft carrier in the western pacific ocean on Wednesday. The USS John C. Stennis was sailing to join exercises with warships from India and Japan. The three nations host annual exercises to practice coordination and other maritime related activities.
U.S. defense officials said that this type of behavior from Chinese ships has become routine as a consequence of China’s frustration with U.S. ships sailing near its man-made islands in the South China sea. The U.S. ships maintains patrols in the area to protect freedom of navigation.
The Pentagon has voiced concerns over China’s recent provocative activities including multiple close intercepts between Chinese war planes and U.S. planes over the South China Sea.
Reuters quoted Captain Gregory C. Huffman of the Stennis:
There is a Chinese vessel about seven to ten miles away
Japan has also voiced its concerns over China’s increasing aggressive naval activity. On Wednesday a Chinese Dondiao-class spy ship sailed into Japanese territorial waters. It was spotted and identified by a Japanese surveillance plane.
In the wake of the latest Chinese navy ship entry to the contiguous zone of Senkaku islands, [the] Chinese navy’s spy ship entered our territorial water. We have communicated our concern [to China] over the Chinese military operation as whole
That was the message that Japan’s Deputy Chief Secretary (Hiroshige Sekou) delivered to reporters at a press conference.
The United States along with Japan and India worry that China is rapidly changing the balance of power in the South China Sea with the aggressive use of submarines and surface naval vessels. By creating artificial islands it is even expanding territorial claims into what is now the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Many nations lay claim to overlapping parts of the South China Sea including Japan, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines. Some of these overlapping claims are:
- A Maritime boundary dispute along the Vietnamese coast between Brunei, Cambodia, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
- A Maritime boundary dispute north of Borneo between Brunei with China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all making competing claims to the area.
- A dispute involving Islands in the South China Sea, including the Paracels Islands, the Pratas Islands, Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands. This involves Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
- A Maritime boundary dispute in the area north of the Natuna Islands involving Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
- A Maritime boundary dispute off the coast of Palawan and Luzon with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam laying competing claims
With the numerous disputes in the area, political and world-event experts forecast that the South China Sea will become a flash-point for major military disputes over the next few decades.