The Obama administration has deployed the George Washington aircraft carrier group, with 5,000 men on board, to the South China Sea area to engage in provocative military "exercises" along with the Vietnamese, in direct response to recent Chinese naval maneuvers. Associated Press reported Oct. 20, from "on board the USS George Washington," that "a U.S. aircraft carrier group cruised through the disputed South China Sea on Saturday in a show of American power in waters that are fast becoming a focal point of Washington's strategic rivalry with Beijing. Vietnamese security and government officials were flown onto the nuclear-powered USS George Washington ship, underlining the burgeoning military relationship between the former enemies."
"The mission came a day after Beijing staged military exercises near islands in the nearby East China Sea it disputes with U.S ally Japan. Those tensions have flared in recent days."
Noting the various simmering territorial disputes in the area, AP reports that "many fear the disputes could become Asia's next flash point for armed conflict. Vietnam is pleased to accept help from its one-time foe America as a hedge against its giant neighbor China, with which it also tries to maintain good relations."
Sanity seems to have prevailed, at least for the moment, in another flashpoint in the region, when Japan called off a planned joint naval drill with the United States, "fearing that it would provoke a negative reaction from China," the Japan Times daily reported, citing an unnamed source in the government. According to the scenario of the drills, slated for November, the forces of Japan and the United States were to recapture an uninhabited Irisuna Island, a remote island in Okinawa Prefecture—an obvious reference to the disputed Senkaku Islands. The daily said, quoting its source in the Japanese government, that the decision to abandon the island-recapture drills reflects the opinion of the prime minister's office.