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South China Sea crisis: US marines ‘flex’ at China during military practice

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US Marines conducted the military exercise in a supposed flex against China’s dominance in the highly contested region. The relationship between Beijing and Washington has intensified after numerous confrontations in the region.

According to a press release from the Marines, USS Germantown acted as a “foreign ship that had been identified as a non-compliant vessel transporting illicit cargo”.

Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s maritime raid force were charged with taking down the vessel in the drills last week.

The exercise consisted of two platoons of reconnaissance Marine and a security element.

The raid force landed on the Germantown from rope attached to helicopters before slicing through simulated barriers to enter and clear the ship’s passageways.

According to the press release, the force detained “hostile forces” and snatched a “notional cache” of illegal weapons.

Colonel Michael Nakonieczny, commanding officer of the 31st MEU, said: “The Commandant of the Marine Corps gave specific instruction in his planning guidance to be first on the scene, first to help, first to contain a brewing crisis and if required to do so, first to fight.

“The tactical discipline and aggressive action displayed this weekend by the sailors and Marines… demonstrates to our Commandant, our allies and partners, and our adversaries that we are prepared to do just that.”

These types of operations – known as visit, board, search and seizure missions (VBSS) – are common practice for Marine Corps and Navy.

But Washington’s decision to complete the military drill in the South China Sea can be seen as a warning to Beijing.

The South China Sea faces rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

The islands and surrounding reefs have been the subject of a bitter and long-running territorial dispute.

Over recent months, China has constructed a number of bunkers on some of the atolls in the region, sparking fears of a World War 3 outbreak.

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But China has asserted its dominance over the region and have kicked out and banned Vietnam fishermen earlier this year.

The Communist nation has also claimed almost all of the 1.3 million square mile region as its sovereign territory.

According to reports, China has deployed fighter jets and at least one bomber, the H-6J, to the Paracel Islands.

Since seizing the Paracels in 1974, China has built military installations on the islands.

Despite having no claim over any part of the region, Washington has increased its military presence as global tensions rise.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vocally condemned China’s presence in the region.

Earlier this year, he urged the other nations to counter against Beijing’s dominance.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Pompeo said: “The United States’ policy is crystal clear: the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire.

“If Beijing violates international law and free nations do nothing, history shows the CCP will simply take more territory.

“China Sea disputes must be resolved through international law.”

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