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Slumbering Joe Overshadowed: Chinese Mock US 'Show of Force' in Western Pacific

© US Navy/Zachary WheelerAn F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Blue Diamonds” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) May 25, 2020
An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Blue Diamonds” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) May 25, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.02.2024
With the US-backed Ukrainian military continuing to suffer heavy battlefield losses and the Pentagon bogged down in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Biden administration decided to flex its muscles in the Pacific to send a "strong signal" to China.
Recently, Newsweek reported that a staggering five US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers - nearly half the US carrier fleet - will be deployed to the Western Pacific in the coming weeks to reassure Washington's regional allies that they have not been forgotten.
The warships selected for the show of force include the USS Abraham Lincoln, the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan, and the USS George Washington.
The Carl Vinson and Theodore Roosevelt are already operating in the region, according to the newspaper, with the Carl Vinson having previously participated in joint US-Philippine naval exercises in the South China Sea. The drills were conducted in the disputed maritime region in early January. People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships were spotted in the vicinity, reportedly "observing" the US maneuvers. In February, the Carl Vinson and the Theodore Roosevelt participated in a military exercise with Japan in the Philippine Sea.
A Chinese Coast Guard ship sails near a Philippine vessel (C) that was part of a convoy of civilian boats in the disputed South China Sea on December 10, 2023.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.01.2024
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"The show of force may satisfy some allied governments, but it could also confirm the impression in both friendly and hostile capitals that the US is overstretched and trying to take on too many tasks at the same time," the DC-based think tank Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft wrote, warning that "the US can ill afford a new crisis in East Asia on top of the other conflicts that it is involved in."
Still, the Chinese media's reaction to the deployment was remarkable. The Global Times, a Chinese daily known for its hard-line stance, ridiculed the upcoming deployment as mere "hype".
"The truth is, now and for a while to come, the only US aircraft carrier that is actively deployed is the USS Theodore Roosevelt," the media outlet said, citing the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank.
US President Joe Biden (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' week in Woodside, California on November 15, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.12.2023
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According to SCSPI, the USS Carl Vinson left Pearl Harbor on Monday and is expected to complete its Western Pacific deployment on its way back to the continental United States. While the USS Ronald Reagan is undergoing maintenance in Yokosuka, the USS Abraham Lincoln returned to San Diego on February 16. For its part, the USS George Washington is underway off the east coast of the US in the Atlantic Ocean, the Beijing-based think tank noted, citing fleet tracking data published by USNI News.
Only the USS Theodore Roosevelt is currently operating in the Philippine Sea after departing Guam on February 14, according to SCSPI.

Citing Chinese military experts, the Global Times expressed skepticism about Washington's ability to deploy all five aircraft carriers to the Western Pacific at once. The media noted that the US has been involved in too many conflicts to afford to send half of its carrier fleet to flex its muscles in the region. Moreover, the US shipbuilding industry "is also in decline," resulting in longer maintenance periods for American carriers, the Chinese daily noted. The media expect that Washington will be able to send no more than three such warships to the Western Pacific in the near future.

In any event, "[any] attempt to deter its potential competitors through a show of force cannot reach its goal, but can only stir up tensions in the region," the Chinese concluded.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, center, one of the three standing next to a covered submarine, attends the launching ceremony for domestically-made submarines at CSBC Corp's shipyards in Kaohsiung, Southern Taiwan, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.02.2024
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