US increases military pressure on China as tensions rise over pandemic

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US accuses China of exploiting the pandemic to gain military and economic advantages by expanding the areas in which it operates

Over the last few weeks US Navy ships and Air Force B-1 bombers have undertaken missions aimed at sending a very public message that the US military intends to maintain a presence in the region and reassure allies.

"The People's Republic of China is attempting to use the regional focus on Covid to assertively advance its own interests," US Navy Capt. Michael Kafka, a spokesperson for the US military's Indo-Pacific Command told CNN in a statement on Wednesday.And the Pentagon made clear the coronavirus outbreak has not hurt its ability to respond to Chinese actions.

In recent weeks the US flew B-1 bombers from bases in the US to the region on three separate occasions, including an operation over the South China Sea and a deployment of four B-1 bombers and 200 personnel from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas to Guam. China has long criticized what it calls provocations by the US and its military efforts in the South China Sea that commenced several years ago when China made disputed territorial claims.The South China Sea is considered a crucial strategic location, being home to some of the busiest shipping routes in the world as well as potential natural resource deposits such as oil and gas. Parts of the sea are contested by multiple claimants, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan.


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