• U.S. aircraft carriers were in the South China Sea for military drills
  • Chinese tabloid tweeted that the Chinese military had “aircraft carrier killer missiles”
  • The U.S. Navy responded with the hashtage #AtOurDiscretion

The U.S. Navy sent a classy response to a tweet from a Chinese state-run tabloid that any aircrat carrier movement in the South China Sea was "at the pleasure" of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The tweet came amid the presence of two U.S. carrier strike groups in the South China Sea, where tension has built up over China's expansive maritime claims, amid war games by the Chinese military.

The Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, boasted of the "wide selection of anti-aircraft carrier weapons like DF-21D and DF-26" missiles with the PLA and said the waterway was "fully within grasp" of the Chinese military. The English language website often employs such tweets to further the propaganda goals of the Communist Party and intimidate neighboring states by invoking Beijing's growing military power.

China has over the years developed an array of missiles touted as "carrier killers," which can keep U.S. strike groups far away from the Chinese mainland and unable to influence the outcome of any battle in the South China Sea. Still those claims have never been tested and the missiles depend on a complex 'kill chain' of satellites and sensors to home in on their targets, all of which are vulnerable to U.S. countermeasures.

USS Nimitz US Navy pic
Both the U.S. and China navies will participate in the RIMCOM naval exercises in Hawaii. U.S. Navy

The tweet caught the attention of the U.S. Navy and the Navy Chief of Information tweeted back a clear message to the Chinese party organ that the Navy was “not intimidated" by those missiles.

"And yet, there they are. Two @USNavy aircraft carriers operating in the international waters of the South China Sea. #USSNimitz & #USSRonaldReagan are not intimidated #AtOurDiscretion"

The USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Nimitz and their entourage of warships deployed to the South China Sea on Saturday (July 4) and have put up a massive display of their strike ability over the weekend. The show was aimed at sending a message to the Chinese military, which was conducting exercises nearby, analysts have said.

The Navy said in a statement that the USS Reagan and the USS Nimitz were deployed to the area “in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The USS Nimitz reached its deployment area on June 17 after conducting drills with another carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which returned to sea June 4 after a coronavirus quarantine. The USS Ronald Reagan is usually stationed in Japan.

The Global Times called the exercises “nothing more than paper tigers on China’s doorstep.” It also claimed that the U.S. drills were a “mere show” because America was forced to shift focus to the region and Taiwan after failings over controlling the coronavirus at home and the loss of its “Hong Kong card.”

Aircraft carriers are the most formidable tools available to project military power and the two carriers carrying out war games in the South China Sea is seen as a message to China about U.S. resolve in the face of Chinese land grabs around the country's borders.

Relations between China and the U.S. have deteriorated following the trade war betweent the two largest economies, the coronavirus pandemic and developments in Hong Kong.