US admiral in disputed South China Sea: ‘We will be here’March 3, 2017
America will continue to patrol the South China Sea to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed region, a U.S. admiral said Friday amid questions whether U.S. involvement in one of Asia’s potential flashpoints will change.
“We will be here,” Rear Adm. James Kilby said on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as it steamed through the gentle blue waters, with F18 fighter jets landing, taking off on catapults and zooming over the mammoth warship.
“We have operated here in the past, we’re going to operate here in the future, we’re going to continue to reassure our allies,” Kilby said. “We’re gonna continue to demonstrate that international waters are waters where everyone can sail, where everyone can conduct commerce and merchant traffic and that’s the message we want to leave with people.”
A commercial ship gingerly cruised several kilometers (miles) away as the Carl Vinson’s kilometer-long flight deck, where crewmembers checked several parked F18s, a surveillance aircraft and helicopters, throbbed with activity under a mild breeze.
Kilby’s comments followed reported Chinese moves to install missile defense systems on islands it recently built, and the inauguration of a new U.S. president who has raised questions about America’s role in Asia.
The U.S. military took a group of journalists to the aircraft carrier during a routine patrol of the South China Sea, one of the world’s security hotspots, in a mission that U.S. Navy officials said has continued for decades.
A U.S. administration official has said the Carl Vinson strike group’s deployment in the South China Sea, a month after President Donald Trump took office, signaled U.S. intent to have a more active naval presence in the region.
Accompanied by a guided-missile destroyer and aircraft, the Carl Vinson began “routine operations” in the South China Sea on Feb. 18. It last deployed to the Western Pacific in 2015 when it conducted an exercise with the Malaysian navy and air force, according to the Pentagon…