Biden orders aircraft carrier to stay in South China Sea, but delays ICBM test

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) during a port visit to Hong Kong on October 2, 2017.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | fake images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will keep a US naval aircraft carrier strike group in the South China Sea longer than originally planned in response to Chinese missile tests and increased aggression on Taiwan, the White House announced. Thursday.

At the same time, Biden will postpone a previously scheduled intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, test, a White House spokesman said.

The twin announcements signal an approach that seeks to increase US military surveillance in the region while limiting opportunities for Beijing to flag any US action as a provocation for further aggression toward Taiwan and neighboring countries.

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its escort ships will remain in the South China Sea “a little longer than originally planned,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at the White House on Thursday.

The aim of the strike group’s extended stay in the region will be “to monitor the situation,” he said. He added that “the president thought it was the most prudent thing to do, to leave her and her escort ships there for a little while longer.”

The Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group has been operating in the South China Sea since mid-July, according to the US military.

Kirby said the postponement of the Minuteman 3 ballistic missile test is aimed at demonstrating “responsible nuclear power behavior in reducing the risks of miscalculations” while China “engages in destabilizing military exercises around Taiwan.”

Still, the United States does not expect China to scale back its aggressive actions any time soon.

“We expect more exercises, more bellicosity and rhetoric, and we expect more incursions” into non-Chinese territories, he said.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing rose significantly last week, fueled in part by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to visit Taiwan with a delegation of congressional Democrats.

The powerful California lawmaker was reportedly warned by the White House and the Pentagon not to make the trip when she did, due to the potential for heightened bilateral tensions.

Pelosi wrote in an op-ed that she believes China poses a serious threat to the independence of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a Chinese province. He said his trip was necessary to show US support for democracy in Taiwan and around the world.

But as Biden tries to balance a desire to show American might in the South China Sea and not provoke more action from Beijing, experts say the distinction could be lost on the Chinese government.

“China doesn’t want or need to convince itself that we’re serious. And parsing between ‘serious’ and ‘provocative’ is like angels dancing on a pin,” said Andrew Mertha, director of the China Global Research Center at Johns Hopkins. . School of Advanced International Studies.

“This ‘split the difference’ exhibits precisely the confusion and incoherence that Beijing probably sees as some kind of deliberate and aggressively opaque strategy,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

“If behind-the-scenes cool heads prevail, both in Beijing and Washington, this will herald a shift toward more sustained and substantive diplomatic engagement,” Mertha said.

Kirby stressed Thursday that key lines of communication between the United States and China are open, despite heightened tensions.

“We’re using those lines of communication, and I think you’ll see it in the next couple of days, too,” he said, somewhat cryptically.

The White House did not immediately respond to an email requesting more details about what Kirby meant.

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