The United States again flew bombers over the disputed South China Sea this week, USA officials disclosed Wednesday, a move likely to intensify the already fraught tension between Beijing and Washington.
China on Tuesday asked the U.S. to cancel the proposed $330-million arms deal with Taiwan, warning "severe damage" to bilateral ties, peace and stability in the region. The Chinese foreign ministry warned of "severe damage" to bilateral relations and cooperation if the sale announced Monday goes through.
US B-52 bombers have conducted transit operations in the South China Sea and East China Sea, the Pentagon said Wednesday, amid soaring tensions with Beijing over trade tariffs. The cancellations followed the Trump administration's decision to move ahead with a new round of tariffs on some $200 billion in Chinese goods and to impose sanctions on the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Equipment Development Department (EDD) under the requirements of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
China has long claimed ownership of a vast swath of the South China Sea, an important global trade route through which billions of dollars worth of cargo is shipped annually, and it holds potentially billions of dollars worth more in untapped mineral resources.
The two countries are mired in a dispute over Washington's allegations that Beijing pilfers foreign trade secrets and forces US companies to hand over technology in return for access to the Chinese market. "In China, they are debating how they can respond and there are hawks who say, 'we have to strike back'". According to the US State Department, the proposed deal will help to improve the security and defensive capability of Taiwan, "which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region".
The United States and China are embroiled in a trade war, sparked by U.S. President Donald Trump's accusations that China has long sought to steal U.S. intellectual property, limit access to its own market and unfairly subsidize state-owned companies. The country is militarizing reclaimed land in the seas and regularly disputes the sovereignty of islands in the region.
Mattis said he did not think there was a fundamental shift in relations between China and the United States. The U.S. action relates to China's purchase from Russian Federation of Su-35 combat aircraft last year and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment this year.
"The Chinese government did not approve a request for a port visit to Hong Kong by the USS Wasp", the consulate noted. The act targets Russia's defence and intelligence sectors, and was passed into law a year ago in response to Russian election interference, cyber attacks and aggression in Ukraine. China last denied such a visit in 2016 amid a spike in tensions between the sides over the disputed South China Sea.