When Sino-US relations were tense due to the “balloon incident”, the United States launched new actions around China, and this time it was not the balloons, but the US aircraft carrier battle group. Since February 12, the “Nimitz” aircraft carrier battle group of the Seventh Fleet of the U.S. Navy has conducted joint exercises with the 13th Expeditionary Force of the First Expeditionary Force of the U.S. Marine Corps. The main content of the performance is the operation of the comprehensive expeditionary strike force, and the role of the amphibious strike platform is very important. And on the same day that the exercise started, a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft also went to the surrounding waters of Taiwan, forming a north-south echo with the military exercise. Obviously, this round of military exercises by the United States is aimed at China. Combined with the background of the “balloon incident”, the Biden administration seems to want to gain a psychological advantage over China in the political game through this round of military exercises, and at the same time practice the US military’s cross-military joint seizure of the island tactics.
For the first goal of the United States, we don’t need to worry too much. But for the second move of the US military, although we can despise the opponent strategically, we need to pay great attention to it tactically. Judging from the forces dispatched by the US military, an aircraft carrier battle group combined with a Marine Corps expedition has formed a considerable amphibious combat force. When conducting air defense and sea control missions, the main force of the aircraft carrier strike group can exert its power; while performing amphibious landing missions, the helicopters and landing craft of the amphibious alert group can use battalion-level troops to carry out raids under the cover of the aviation force carried by the aircraft carrier. island battles. For the small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, such troops are more than enough. The U.S. military’s mixed-match combat mode of amphibious alert group and aircraft carrier battle group is indeed a threat worth studying. It may not only be used in South China Sea operations, but may also be a drill for the U.S. military to intervene in Taiwan Strait operations.
However, the actions of the United States in the South China Sea region have always served another long-term strategy, which is to demonstrate the US military presence to countries in the South China Sea region and provoke regional countries to confront China. Due to the disputes between China and countries in the South China Sea region, the United States has been trying to use these disputes to provoke conflicts between countries in the region and China. For the United States, triggering a direct conflict between China and Southeast Asian countries is a very tempting goal. This is not only because a military conflict in the South China Sea could distract China, but also because it could seriously disrupt economic cooperation between China and Southeast Asian countries. It should be pointed out that Southeast Asia has already become one of the important pillars of China’s economy. ASEAN has long been in the top three positions in China’s foreign trade, and even reached the level of China’s largest foreign trade partner for a period of time. Therefore, if it can provoke a conflict between China and ASEAN countries, it will be a strategic victory for the United States.
It is worth mentioning that the Philippines had many frictions with China in the South China Sea before, but during his visit to China, Philippine President Marcos reached a consensus with China to cooperate in the development of resources in the South China Sea and to resolve disputes peacefully. It seems that the South China Sea policy of the Philippines has reached a critical turning point. At this time, the United States may focus on stimulating the Philippines, hoping that the Philippine authorities will rely on the US military to fight against China. However, if Philippine leaders can keep their heads up, they should realize that following the United States against China is definitely not a good idea. On the one hand, the Philippines and ASEAN countries are also deeply dependent on China’s economy, so falling out with their main economic partners is naturally not a good thing. On the other hand, in the combat environment of the South China Sea, the US military is not an opponent of the PLA.
Part of the South China Sea area is China’s territorial waters. Although there is still some distance from the mainland of China, it is within the range of the PLA’s medium-range ballistic missiles. Any large foreign warships in this area may be the prey of Chinese missiles. And more importantly, if the U.S. military wants to carry out the so-called mission of seizing islands in the South China Sea, their large amphibious platforms must be close to the islands and reefs, which will greatly reduce the difficulty for the People’s Liberation Army’s reconnaissance and search platforms to find them. The survivability of US aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships largely comes from operational flexibility. They can maneuver flexibly on the ocean, relying on the advantage of strike distance and difficult to judge the law of action to avoid the opponent’s detection. But if the U.S. military wants to give up its flexibility advantage and enter limited areas to fight, then the situation will be very different. It can even be said that there is nothing more wasteful of naval forces than allowing a large number of naval platforms to gather in a strait that is highly familiar to the other party. If we really want to fight, it will definitely be the United States that will suffer, and it will not help if the Philippines joins in. I am afraid that the United States is also aware of this. This is not only the reason why they dare not do anything in the Taiwan Strait, but also the reason why they do not want to have conflicts with the PLA in the South China Sea.