What Happened: The U.S. Air Force flew B-52 bombers close to the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on June 5, CNN reported June 6. The United States is also considering sending warships through the Taiwan Strait on a regular basis. A U.S. aircraft carrier last transited the strait in 2007.
Why It Matters: The increased pace of U.S. deployments will lead to increased tensions and will further exacerbate the growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
Background: China has increased its military presence in the South China Sea, including deploying electronic warfare equipment and surface-to-air missiles to the Paracel and Spratly Islands. On May 29, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the United States will continue "a steady drumbeat" of naval exercises to challenge China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.
- What Beijing Is Building in the South China Sea (April 18, 2018)
- China Navy Prepares to Close the Gap on the U.S. (May 11, 2018)
- For the U.S. and China, the Economic Fight of the Century Begins (May 20, 2018)