NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
The aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan is currently deployed in waters off the east coast of Taiwan amid growing tensions with China over the recent U.S. visit by Taiwan’s vice president, the U.S. Naval Institute reported this week.
Navy spokesmen did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the carrier deployment. The Navy generally declines to disclose the locations of its carriers for security reasons.
In addition to the aircraft carrier and its air wing, other ships in the group include the cruisers USS Robert Smalls and USS Antietam and the guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta.
The dispatch of the carrier near Taiwan, however, comes as island democracy is bracing for possible military provocations by China in the form of large-scale exercises and war games. Chinese officials have vowed to respond to the stopover visit to New York by Taiwan Vice President William Lai this week on his way to Paraguay.
So far, however, there has been no large-scale military response to the visit which China said violated U.S.-China understandings and policies regarding Taiwan.
The strike group normally is accompanied secretly by an attack submarine. The Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine USS North Carolina took part in recent exercises with the Reagan in Australian waters, according to the Navy.
The last time a carrier group was near Taiwan was April, when the USS Nimitz was near the island amid Chinese opposition over the visit to the United States at the time by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. China last held war games near Taiwan in April, following a visit by Ms. Tsai’s meeting in California with GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The strike group finished up participation in a major exercise with Australian air and naval forces called Talisman Sabre 23 on Aug. 4. The exercises involved over 30,000 troops from 13 nations, including Japanese and South Korean warships.
It is not clear how long the USS Reagan will stay in waters near Taiwan. In the past, Pacific-based carrier groups normally return to their home port in Yokosuka, Japan for rest and repair after similar deployments.
Naval analysts say the carrier presence near Taiwan should be a regular feature, along the lines of the Navy carrier strike group deployments for two decades in the Persian Gulf.
The current deployment may explain China’s muted response to the Lai visit so far. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that there have not been large-scale Chinese military exercises or other action near the island as expected.
China on Sunday denounced the visit by Mr. Lai, an ally of Ms. Tsai and the leading candidate to replace her in elections set for January.
The Defense Ministry said last week that it was bracing for China to launch military drills in response to the stopover visit by Mr. Lai that would be designed to intimidate voters on the island prior to the election. The ministry also warned in its post that China could use “cognitive warfare tactics” involving disinformation to influence the public.
Col. Sun Li-fang, a Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman, said the Taiwanese military would track any Chinese activities near the island, Reuters reported from Taipei.
“The national army upholds the principle of ‘not afraid of the enemy and not provoking’ when facing all activities by the Chinese Communist Party,” Col. Sun said.
While Taiwan has not observed any “relatively large-scale” drills or actions by China’s military, he said, “this does not mean we will let down our guard or war preparedness determination.”
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China “is closely following the developments of [Mr. Lai’s trip] and will take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Taiwan Premier Chen Chien-jen told reporters there should be no reaction to the Lai visit since the stopover visits to the U.S. have taken place for years.
“There is no need for China to take this opportunity to provoke for no reason,” he said.
China claims new system to detect U.S. subs
China’s military reportedly has developed new technology to detect U.S. submarines, known for the underwater stealth and regarded as the U.S. Navy’s most significant asymmetric warfare advantage.
Chinese researchers in a new study suggested that advanced submarines can be detected with existing technology, a breakthrough that would undermine American undersea dominance, the pro-Beijing South China Morning Post reported this week.
According to the Chinese journal article, U.S. submarines employ sophisticated acoustic and vibration reduction systems that allow them to blend into the background noises of the ocean and avoid detection by other submarines or ocean sensors.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter now contend that ultra-sensitive magnetic detectors can pick up traces of even the most silent submarines at long distances. A research team led by Zou Shengnan used computer modeling to determine that nearly imperceptible bubbles produced by nuclear-powered submarines cruising at high speeds underwater can be picked up by the detectors.
The study published Aug. 1 in the Chinese Journal of Ship Research concludes that the technology “provides a new solution for the detection and tracking of submarines.”
According to the study, an extremely low frequency (ELF) signal produced by submarine bubbles can be three to six times stronger than the sensitivities of advanced magnetic anomaly detectors.
“The magnitudes of the induced electric field and magnetic field are … well within the detection range of some top-notch sensors,” the study said.
The emissions fluctuate over time and produce an extremely low frequency signal that travels great distances. allowing sensors to help identify the submarines. The study said more research is needed to develop the technology for anti-submarine warfare purposes
For example, the signal dissipates when submarines slow down or stop. It can also be disrupted by other sources, such as electromagnetic noise or human-generated signals – an indication the Navy could develop electronic countermeasures to the Chinese detection system.
A Navy spokeswoman said: “Our undersea force is the most lethal and capable in the world, operating across the globe and ready to conduct prompt and persistent combat operations.”
“We leverage our asymmetric advantages to deter war and, if deterrence fails, to dominate the adversary,” she said.
Chinese defense chief: Backing Taiwan is ‘playing with fire’
China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu said during a visit to Moscow on Wednesday that support for Taiwan is “playing with fire” — a veiled criticism of U.S. backing for the island 100 miles across the Taiwan Strait from China.
Mr. Li said during remarks to a Moscow conference on international security that the Chinese military promotes world peace, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Mr. Li also sought to promote China’s Global Security Initiative, a proposal launched by President Xi Jinping that critics say is designed to promote Chinese communism’s interests globally.
The initiative “promotes a new security path featuring dialogue over confrontation, partnership over alliance, and ‘win-win’ over ‘zero-sum,’” Mr. Li said.
Mr. Li also said that Taiwan’s status is an internal Chinese matter and that Beijing’s takeover of the island that separated from the mainland during a civil war in 1949 is “inevitable.”
“Playing with fire on the Taiwan question and attempts to contain China with Taiwan are doomed to fail,” he said.
China has come under fire for its backing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A U.S. intelligence assessment made public last month said China is helping Russia evade economic sanctions and export controls on technology. The report made no mention of direct military weaponry sent to Russia by Beijing.
A defense source said China is using “cutout” suppliers to mask its military aid to Russia, including North Korea and Iran.
“Open and transparent” military cooperation between China and Russia is conducive to peace and stability, the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times reported Mr. Li as saying. Beijing-Moscow military relations are a model of “non-aligned, non-confrontational cooperation” that does not target any third country, the news website added.
The comments followed the deployment of 11 Chinese and Russian warships in a joint task force that sailed near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands recently, prompting criticism from Republican lawmakers.
— Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.