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The US Navy is beefing up its military presence in the South China Sea by sending a group of warships, satellite photos reveal.
The images, released Thursday by the South China Sea Strategic Situational Research Initiative (SCSPI) on Twitter, show a group of U.S. combat ships passing through the Strait of Malacca, which separates the western coast of the Malaysian peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The SCSPI, an organization based in Beijing, the Chinese capital, detailed that, among the tracked US Navy vessels is the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, accompanied by the support ship USS San Diego.
For its part, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command reported on the same social network that the USS Makin Island crew conducted "a live-fire training exercise" in the waters of the sea lane over which China and several countries in the region have various territorial disputes.
The deployment of the amphibious assault ship came after the U.S. Navy recently conducted joint military exercises with its Malaysian counterpart involving the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy which, in parallel, conducted "a routine training exercise" with a group of ships led by the aircraft carrier Liaoning in waters near Taiwan and has sent several of its fighters to monitor the movements of U.S. ships heading toward the Taiwanese coast.
The SCSPI, in another of its messages released Friday, noted that two U.S. P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft - used exclusively for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare - were on Thursday scouring the waters of the Bashi Channel, a Pacific Ocean strait between the Philippines' Y'Ami Island and Taiwan's Orchid Island.
According to the Beijing-based think tank, this aerial reconnaissance maneuver could result in the imminent deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in this sea lane close to the Taiwanese coast to "welcome" the formation of Chinese Navy ships, led by the aforementioned aircraft carrier Liaoning, which are in the region.
China and Taiwan are experiencing an escalation of tensions due to different issues, among them, the separatist efforts of the Taiwanese authorities, especially of President Tsai Ing-wen, who opposes the "One China "principle, as well as the military and political support received by the island from the United States.
Faced with this situation, the Asian giant has increased its military activities near Taiwan in recent months, firstly to make it clear that it has no qualms about guaranteeing and safeguarding Chinese sovereignty over the political pretensions of the separatists of the ruling elite in Taipei, and secondly to issue a warning to the U.S., which has increased both diplomatic contacts and military support for the island.