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Epidemic hinders US military presence near China

(Global Times)    09:24, April 16, 2020

USS Theodore Roosevelt transits the Pacific Ocean on April 7, 2017. Photo: US Navy

Despite four aircraft carriers being affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the US is still holding naval operations near China in an attempt to maintain its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, but a Chinese expert said on Wednesday that the moves cannot conceal the US Navy's weak position and may also lead to further infections.

The US Pacific Fleet said on its Twitter account on Wednesday that the Bunker Hill, a US guided missile cruiser, was operating in the South China Sea, and the America, a US amphibious assault ship, conducted a replenishment-at-sea operation while sailing in the East China Sea.

On Friday, the America also operated together with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Akebono in the East China Sea, and US guided missile destroyer Barry transited the Taiwan Strait, the US Pacific Fleet said.

These operations came at a time when four US aircraft carriers - the Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Carl Vinson and Nimitz - all reported positive COVID-19 cases which rendered them unsuitable for deployment, leaving the US with no carrier to use in the Asia-Pacific region, analysts noted.

Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu told the Global Times on Wednesday that the US aircraft carriers will not be able to conduct missions for some time, and said the US Navy was attempting to use other types of warships to replace them.

Even though the America amphibious assault ship repeatedly conducted takeoff and landing exercises with its F-35B fighter jets and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft during its voyage in an attempt to showcase the warship's capabilities both at sea and in the air, it still has very limited use in this aspect compared to a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Wei said, noting that the US military operations were only the best ones among bad choices, and cannot conceal the US Navy's current weak condition.

With the recent US naval operations, the US Navy is trying to show it is still capable of mobilizing troops overseas, but the fact is that the US' capability to wage war has greatly declined, Wei said.

"In a bid to maintain the US' image of a maritime hegemony, the country's recent operations risked its sailors' health and safety as more of them could be infected by the coronavirus. This is irresponsible," he said.

Having done a good job in controlling the epidemic situation, China's Liaoning aircraft carrier task group on Friday crossed through the Miyako Strait, Bashi Channel and then entered the South China Sea for exercises, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy announced on Monday. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Bianji)

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