The United States Navy has sent an aircraft carrier and a fleet of warships with its 7,000 sailors to the West Philippine Sea.
The carrier strike group John C. Stennis accompanied by the cruiser USS Mobile Bay and the destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung-Hoon arrived in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday, said Navy Cmdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The floating headquarters of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, the command ship Blue Ridge, is also in the area, en route to a port visit in the Philippines.
The carrier strike group is the United States’ latest show of force after China’s deployment of Surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets in the Paracels.
According to experts, sending Stennis and its air wing to the West Philippine Sea is a clear signal to China.
“Clearly the Navy and DoD is demonstrating its full commitment to presence and freedom of navigation in the region,” said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain.
“With the full carrier strike group and the command ship, the Navy is showing the scope of its interests and ability to project presence and power around the world.” he added.
Aside from the carrier strike group, the Japan-based USS Antietam, officials said, also is currently patrolling the West Philippine Sea, said Navy Cmdr. Clay Doss. Similar patrols were completed last week by the USS McCambell, a destroyer, and the USS Ashland, an amphibious dock landing ship.
According to Capt. Michael Wettlaufer, the commanding officer of the Stennis, the aircraft carrier the “world’s finest.”
The Stennis is carrying out a routine patrol in the West Philippine Sea where China has moved its military radar, surface-to-air missiles, and fighter jets.
U.S. defense secretary Ash Carter, earlier this week, warned China of “specific consequences” in its action in the West Philippine Sea.
“The United States wants every nation to have the opportunity to rise and that includes China. We welcome its rise and its inclusion in this architecture. But we don’t welcome aggressive behavior,” Carter said in San Francisco.
“Indeed, while some in the region appear determined to play spoiler, the United States, and our many friends in the region don’t plan on letting anyone suspend seven decades’ worth of progress,” he added.