US Navy group heading for Yellow Sea in biggest show of strength near eastern China in 10 years

The United States Navy is expected to take part in its first large-scale exercises in the Yellow Sea off the coast of northern China in 10 years, a move that risks further fuelling tensions with Beijing.
A South Korean defence ministry official said a US amphibious ready group, led by the USS America, and the Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver would “participate in the celebration of the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Incheon during the Korean war and the 70th anniversary of the US-South Korea alliance”.

Local media, citing senior government officials, reported that the group would also take part in what will “practically be a large-scale joint amphibious operation drill between the US and South Korea” around the commemorations.

The USS America is an amphibious assault ship that can also carry vertical take-off and landing aircraft, including the F-35B stealth fighter, giving it the capacity to take part in joint air and sea operations.

The last US major operation in the Yellow Sea was in 2013, when the carrier group led by USS George Washington took part in a joint exercise.

China sends biggest destroyer to lead Yellow Sea combat drills

Since then it has only sent smaller groups or single ships into the waters – which at their narrowest point separate South Korea from China by less than 230km (140 miles) – in part to avoid a backlash from Beijing.


Washington recently increased air force activity over the Yellow Sea following a series of North Korean missile launches and amid rising tensions with China.

In April, US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to “enhance the regular visibility of strategic assets” around the Korean peninsula.

Last week, the US conducted an air force drill in the Yellow Sea, involving strategic assets such as B-1B bombers, as a part of Ulchi Freedom Shield, an annual joint exercise that was revived last year.

Last week the Chinese defence ministry accused the US of “provocation” for regularly dispatching navy and air force units around China to “contain and suppress it” and the latest exercise is likely to add to tensions.

us navy group heading for yellow sea in biggest show of strength near eastern china in 10 years


North Korean leader Kim orders increased missile production ahead of South Korea-US drills

North Korean leader Kim orders increased missile production ahead of South Korea-US drills

Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said the US is demonstrating its commitment to deterring China and North Korea.


“The current situation clearly shows the US superiority over China,” said Kim. “It holds various messages such as Washington’s containment of Beijing through trilateral cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo.” Last month the three countries agreed to stage regular joint exercises following a summit at Camp David.

Choo Jae-woo, professor of Chinese studies at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, said the USS America’s presence in the Yellow Sea was “very encouraging”.


“It could be a sign that joint naval and air force drills between the US and South Korea will resume,” Choo added.

Kang Jun-young, a professor of Chinese studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said the move was a “concrete demonstration” of the power of the US-South Korean alliance in response to the North’s nuclear threat.

“Because the North Korean nuclear threat has actually increased, the current South Korean government is strengthening military cooperation with the United States in order to secure minimal deterrence,” said Kang.


“Naturally, China’s opposition is expected … it can be seen that there is also an aspect of expecting China to play an active role in North Korea’s nuclear negotiations, which are at a standstill.”

Collin Koh, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the Yellow Sea has long been a secure area for Beijing, given its location and relatively low levels of maritime traffic.

China gathers most powerful destroyers as US carrier group holds exercise

“Basically, in the Yellow Sea it’ll be China and the two Koreas sharing a common maritime space. And amongst them China is the largest coastal state,” said Koh.


“Therefore, having foreign militaries exercise in the Yellow Sea isn’t exactly a common occurrence and something that Beijing has anticipated as much as those in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Sea of Japan/East Sea.”

“It’s also a signal of deterrence against China – perhaps a reminder that the US can project military presence across all of China’s near seas.”


South China Morning Post

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