US Navy deploys strike group to South China Sea


MANILA, Philippines – The United States Navy has deployed a small armada to the South China Sea in what is considered a show of force as tensions rise over China’s construction of artificial islands in disputed waters.

Quoting US military officials, the Navy Times reported that the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, the destroyers Chung-Hoon and Stockdale, cruisers Antietam and Mobile Bay along with the Blue Ridge, command ship of the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, set off recently for the South China Sea, where Beijing has installed surface-to-air missiles and built an airstrip on reclaimed area.

The Blue Ridge is on its way to the Philippines for a port call, while the Antietam, also based in Japan, is conducting a “routine patrol” in the area, the Navy Times reported. It added that the nuclear-powered Stennis deployed from Washington state on Jan. 15.

The recent deployments come amid US accusations that China is “militarizing” the South China Sea – a charge that Beijing has disputed.

Testifying before the US Senate last month, Adm. Harry Harris, chief of the Hawaii-based Pacific Command, told the Armed Service Committee, “In my opinion, China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea… You’d have to believe in a flat Earth to believe otherwise.”

Harris also expressed concern to reporters that China would declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea as he noted that Beijing had so far reclaimed nearly 3,000 acres of “military bases” in disputed waters.

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