A US carrier strike group, led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, has sailed into the South China Sea to conduct “routine operations,” marking the second time it has shown up in the disputed waters in less than two months.
The carrier group entered the South China Sea on April 4, the US Navy said in a statement late on Monday. The unit, officially known as the Carrier Strike Group 9, will conduct various exercises while in the area, ranging from anti-submarine drills to “coordinated tactical training.”
“Over the course of the strike group’s deployment, we have demonstrated our commitment to the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region by operating with our friends from South Korea, Japan, Australia, India, and Malaysia,” Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of the strike group, said, promising to continue “to sail together with all those that embrace our collective vision of security and stability.”
It is great to be back in the South China Sea to reassure our allies and partners that we remain committed to freedom of the seas.
It is the strike group’s second visit to the South China Sea in less than two months. Early in February, the unit conducted joint exercises in the region alongside another US strike group led by the USS Nimitz.
The US military has been very active in the South China Sea over the past few years, repeatedly sending aerial and naval missions there. The highly disputed waters are the subject of overlapping maritime and territorial claims of multiple nations, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
The troubled region is also an important waterway with exceptionally high international traffic. Trillions of dollars’ worth of goods flow through it each year.
Washington has repeatedly defended the need for its military activities in the area claiming the missions are designed to protect the so-called “freedom of navigation” principle.
The US’ actions have been condemned by Beijing on multiple occasions, as China insists such missions only create further tensions in the already-troubled region. US naval ships and spy aircraft have repeatedly buzzed islets claimed by China in the seas, leading to multiple incidents between the two nations.
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