China claims most of the South China Sea as its own territorial waters, despite losing in the UN Court in the Hague last year. They have been building up artificial islands to try to extend their territorial reach, and have been building runways and allegedly missile sites on them. Their rejected "nine dash line" shows what they are claiming despite opposition claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.
China has had a show of force in the area by sailing their only aircraft carrier into the area recently. Also, on February 10, U.S. and Chinese military planes had what the Pentagon describes as "an unsafe close encounter" near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. A war of words ensued.
The Trump administration answered by sailing their own aircraft carrier group through the South China Sea, led by the USS Vinson. Also three attack submarines have been deployed to the Western Pacific, and at least one of them entered the South China Sea.
Other deployments had occurred under the Obama administration, some to counter N Korea, but also intended for China to take notice. These include a permanent bomber presence in Guam for the first time in decades, and stationing advanced missile systems in S Korea and Japan.
Showing that our resolve to protect our interests hasn't changed under President Trump, F22s have been sent to Australia for joint exercises, and F 35s to Okinawa, Japan.
As if that wasn't clear enough, the US just had a Trident II ballistic missile test, firing a four missile salvo from a submarine off the California coast 4,200 miles into the mid-Pacific.
According to this NBC story, "On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry acknowledged the USS Vinson's patrol.
"China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight of all countries in the South China Sea in accordance with international law," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang."http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/us- ... li=BBnbcA1