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How a US aircraft carrier is part of a high-stakes stand-off in the South China Sea

Few things are more impressive than the US military’s aircraft carriers. When they move, the entire world is captivated. They can be referred to as floating cities.

There are 11 in the USA, and they are the best in the entire world.

One of these is the USS Nimitz. Under the enormous flight deck, it’s a maze of control rooms and cabins. The aircraft can hold approximately 5,000 military personnel, and up to 7,000 if you add the “strike force” which includes warships and jets.

We were just finishing a South China Sea deployment and we arrived aboard the ship when it was temporarily docked in South Korea.


These types of deployments are not unusual, but they are done knowing that they will be noticed and criticized by China, an increasingly assertive rival to the US.

Lt. Ben Bushong served seven years in the US Navy, most of which as a helicopter pilot. He showed us around.

His colleagues and he know that things are stressful, just as they have for a while.

He stated that the “big picture” is keeping Indo-pacific free and open.

“I would simply say that we are always available and we are always training so that if we get called, we can respond.”

Image Lieutenant Ben Bushong stated to Sky News that the aircraft carrier is always ready to respond

Rarely has being prepared felt more urgent.

There are many fronts in the US-China confrontation, and they are all becoming more complicated.

A few weeks ago, China’s new foreign minister stated that if the US doesn’t “hit the breaks” on provocations it perceives, then “conflict is certain to follow.”

China is increasingly making it a point to show its muscle in the waters around it.

It has been accused for many years of illegally fishing and militarizing islands in South China Sea. However, it recently started sailing and flying closer to Taiwan’s self-governing island.

Other incidents that have been of concern include China’s claim last week that it chased away an American vessel that illegally entered the waters around the Paracel Islands. This claim was denied by the US.

Then, there was the declassified footage of a US aircraft filming a Chinese fighter just feet from it. This move was described by the US as dangerous and aggressive.

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China is now able to afford these capabilities because it has built the largest navy in the entire world in the past 20 years, growing 10-fold.

According to Christopher Sweeney, Rear Admiral of the Nimitz’s strike force, it is why the US presence is so crucial.

He stated, “First, we’re going to sail and operate wherever international law permits.”

“And my message would be to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] that we’re resolute, that we’re going not to be bullied and that we’re never going to being coerced, and that we’re going to stay here to fly and operate within international norms.”

Image Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney leads Nimitz’s strike force

China views the US’s efforts in this area as part of a larger effort to contain it. It sees the region as its backyard.

The admiral responded to this allegation with a firm statement.

“We don’t seek to contain China. We don’t seek conflict with China. We seek international norms that all can prosper from.”

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If there were to be fighting in this area, it would likely take place over Taiwan, Taiwan’s self-governing democracy China considers its own.

China has not ruled it out of taking the island by force, and deterring is one of the key US objectives.

China’s assertiveness has brought many Asian countries closer to the US.

The South Korean flag was the focal point of the ceremony. They are currently conducting joint drills and will also work with Japan next month.

Although much of the tension between China and the US is hidden and undercover, it is becoming increasingly fractured in this region and there is a high stakes standoff.


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