The Pentagon has plans of sending its military aircraft to patrol the disputed South China Sea amidst reports of China building a military-sized air strip on an artificial island it has built in the region. The Pentagon is planning to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands, Reuters reported citing unnamed sources.
The Pentagon will assert freedom of navigation in South China sea
“We are considering how to demonstrate freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade,” a U.S. official who has spoken under the condition of anonymity told Reuters. The official added that plans would have to undergo approval from the White House.
The official explained that sending ships and aircraft near the disputed sea is bound by the U.S. military “Freedom of Navigation” operations, conducted since 2014 to investigate maritime claims of 19 countries over South China Sea.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam are claiming maritime rights over parts of the Spratly. However, China has been claiming 90 percent of the entire South China Sea. The country said it owns the shipping route that can generate as much as $5 million of trade each year, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, Philippines Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Washington to ask for U.S.’ urgent aid. The Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally.
“We are taking the position that we must do something quickly less the massive reclamation results in the de facto control by China of the South China Sea,” del Rosario was quoted as saying by Reuters.
USS Forth Worth combat ship patrolling Spratly
The United State Navy USS Fort Worth has already been patrolling the international waters near Spratly in the Philippines, local media reported.
“Routine operations like the one Fort Worth just completed in the South China Sea will be the new normal as we welcome four LCSs to the region in the coming years. Deployment of multiple LCSs to Southeast Asia underscores the importance of this ‘region on the rise’ and the value persistent presence brings,” said U.S. Navy Captain Fred Kacher, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7.
Philippines and Japan hold joint naval drills
Meanwhile, Japan and the Philippines held a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea on May 12, The Wall Street Journal reported. Officials of both countries said the drill was aimed at building closer security ties in order to assure prompt response to China’s aggressive demeanor in the disputed sea.
The drill was conducted in the waters west of Manila, a representative from Japan told WSJ. The drill was particularly focused on communications strategies that the two countries may employ when faced with unplanned encounters at sea.
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