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Biden orders aircraft carrier to remain in South China Sea, but delays ICBM test

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The united statesRonald Reagan (CVN-76) aircraft carrier is seen during a port visit in Hong Kong on October 2, 2017.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will keep a U.S. naval aircraft carrier strike group within the South China Sea longer than originally planned, in response to Chinese missile tests and heightened aggression around Taiwan, the White House announced Thursday.

At the identical time, Biden will postpone a previously scheduled intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, test, said a White House spokesman.

The dual announcements signal an approach that seeks to boost American military vigilance within the region while concurrently limiting opportunities for Beijing to point to any U.S. motion as a provocation for increased aggression toward Taiwan and neighboring countries.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and her escort ships will remain within the South China Sea “for somewhat bit longer than they were originally planned to be there,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on the White House on Thursday.

The goal of the strike group’s prolonged stay within the region can be “to observe the situation,” he said. He added that “the president believed that it was the prudent thing to do, to go away her and her escort ships there for just somewhat bit longer.”

The Ronald Reagan carrier strike group has been operating within the South China Sea because the middle of July, in keeping with the U.S. military.

Kirby said the postponement of the Minuteman 3 ballistic missile test goals to show “the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation” while China “engages in destabilizing military exercises around Taiwan.”

Still, the USA doesn’t expect China to cut back its aggressive actions any time soon.

“We’re expecting more exercises, more bellicosity and rhetoric, and we’re expecting more incursions” into non-Chinese territories, he said.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have increased significantly previously week, driven partially by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to go to Taiwan with a delegation of congressional Democrats.

The White House and Pentagon reportedly cautioned the powerful California lawmaker to not make the trip when she did, as a result of the potential for increased bilateral tensions.

Pelosi wrote in an op-ed that she believes China poses a grave threat to the independence of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a Chinese province. She said her trip was vital to indicate American support for democracy in Taiwan and world wide.

But as Biden tries to balance a desire to flex American muscle within the South China Sea and never provoke further actions from Beijing, experts say the excellence might be lost on the Chinese government.

“China doesn’t want or have to persuade itself that we’re serious. And parsing between ‘serious’ and ‘provocative’ is like angels dancing on a pin,” said Andrew Mertha, director of the China Global Research Center at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“This ‘splitting the difference’ exhibits precisely the confusion and incoherence that Beijing likely sees as some type of deliberate, aggressively opaque strategy,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

“If cooler heads are prevailing behind the scenes — in each Beijing and Washington — this can be a prelude to a shift to a more sustained, substantive diplomatic engagement,” said Mertha.

Kirby emphasized Thursday that key lines of communication between the U.S. and China are open, despite the heightened tensions.

“We’re using those lines of communication, and I feel you will see that in days to come back as well,” he said, somewhat cryptically.

The White House didn’t immediately reply to an email asking for further details on what Kirby meant.

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