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Air Force, Marines train near China amid heightened tensions

A B-1B Lancer takes off during a training mission in the East China Sea. Photo by Pacific Air Forces/U.S. Air Force/Twitter
A B-1B Lancer takes off during a training mission in the East China Sea. Photo by Pacific Air Forces/U.S. Air Force/Twitter

May 6 (UPI) -- The Air Force and Marines have both reported engaging in training maneuvers in the East and South China Sea in recent weeks amid escalating tensions in the region.

Earlier this week the Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Air Force announced on Twitter that the Air Force had conducted a training mission in the in the East China Sea "in support of the National Defense Strategy objectives of being strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable."

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Last week the Chinese military expelled the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry from the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, saying U.S. forces were intruding into waters around the islands without permission.

The U.S. Marine Corps on Wednesday announced that the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in mid-April conducted training exercises in the South China Sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America near a standoff between China and Malaysia.

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"Organizing, staging, loading, and launching two companies of Marines from the ship is not a small task. This training rehearses our Marines, the ship's crew, and other supporting components of the MAGTF so that if we were to execute a quick reaction mission real-world, we've already identified and addressed any friction that might arise," Maj. Jeremy Fisher, company commander of Bravo Company, said in a press release.

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The South China Sea is subject to several overlapping territorial and maritime claims, and those disputes have been a flashpoint for escalating tensions between the United States and China, with Chinese military officials saying U.S. exercises in the area are "detrimental to regional peace and stability."

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