South China Sea crisis: America reforms US Navy’s 1st Fleet to oppose Chinese expansion

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The announcement was made by Kenneth Braithwaite, Donald Trump’s naval secretary. The new fleet will take responsibility for security of the seas around South-East Asia and the western Indian Ocean.

Analysts have widely interpreted the move as being aimed at China, America’s main regional rival.

Beijing has claimed sovereignty over a large chunk of the South China Sea, overlapping with rival claims from six other countries, sparking fears of war.

Announcing the decision to the US Senate’s armed services committee Mr Braithwaite said: “In order to improve our posture in the Indo-Pacific we will reconstitute the 1st Fleet, assigning it primary responsibility for the Indo and South Asian region as an expeditionary fleet.

“This will reassure our partners and allies of our presence and commitment to this region while ensuring any potential adversary knows we are committed to global presence, to ensure rule of law and freedom of the seas.”

America hasn’t had a 1st Fleet since 1973 when it also covered the western Pacific.

This indicates a significant increase in the US interest in the region.

Currently the US has six fleets, each of which are based around a particular region of confronting a specific threat.

According to ABC News it is expected many of the vessels for the new fleet will come from the 7th Fleet which operates out of Japan.

READ MORE: China denies plotting with Pakistan to smother India 

He stated: “In order to protect those sea lines of communication from the threat of Chinese interference, it would make sense to ramp up patrols of that region, in concert with India but also with other like-minded countries, Australia and Japan.”

However Mr Grossman noted the decision could be reversed by the incoming Biden administration.

Democrat Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president on January 20.

Mr Grossman noted: “This is kind of late in the game with the Trump administration making this kind of decision.

“So we will see if it sticks going forward into 2021.”

Tensions between China and the US have risen dramatically during Mr Trump’s four years as president.

The two superpowers have clashed over trade, the coronavirus, human rights, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Beijing maintains Taiwan, which has a population of 23 million, is an integral part of its territory and has threatened a military resolution to the dispute.

The US refuses to accept this or Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea.

America, and other western countries, regularly send warships through the South China Sea on ‘freedom of navigation’ patrols to demonstrate their rejection of the Chinese claim.



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