China almost launched dozens of missile targeting a U.S. aircraft carrier deployed in the South China Sea. This provocative move happened days before China lost its vast claims in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) almost launched its “carrier killer” DF-21D anti-warship ballistic missiles at USS Ronald Reagan in the highly contested South China Sea, according to the China Central Television (CCTV) on Tuesday.

In 2013, the Philippines filed a case with the international tribunal against China’s nine-dash line. China’s nine-dash line claims more than 85 percent of the South China Sea including sovereign waters of the neighboring country. Then on July 12, 2016, the court of arbitration ruled out against China’s claims.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the arbitration ruling is a “political farce under the pretext of law.”

On June, Washington deployed the Supercarriers USS Ronald Reagan and the USS John Stennis along with ‘Carrier Strike Group 5’ in the South China Sea near the Philippines to conduct patrols, days before the international tribunal released its decision.

USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group
USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group

China saw the US battle group’s deployment as a preparation for conflict. They feared the U.S. would use its military strength to enforce the arbitration ruling. Hence, in response to Beijing’s growing paranoia, the PLA Rocket Force aimed dozens of its new missiles at the U.S. aircraft carrier in the midst of the major crisis, CCTV revealed.

Beijing deployed ‘three major fleets’

From July 5 to July 11, the Chinese Navy reportedly deployed three major fleets consisting of hundreds of warships and jet fighter aircraft to the South China Sea for a “military exercise.”

Tensions went down weeks after the ruling was issued. The newly elected Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, never used the arbitration ruling won by his predecessor.

China has kept its distance, relying on its DF-12D and DF-26 missiles to protect its vast claims in the South China Sea.