US ship sails in disputed waters
ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, South China Sea
As fighter jets streaked overhead, a U.S. aircraft carrier sailed through the South China Sea on Tuesday in the latest display of America’s military might after China built a string of islands with military facilities to assert its claims in the strategic waters, sparking regional alarm.
The U.S. Navy flew a small group of Philippine generals, officials and journalists to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, where fighter jets landed and took off by catapult with thunderous blasts. The nuclear-powered carrier, and its 65 supersonic F18 jets, spy planes and helicopters, was en route to Manila.
Recent U.S. deployments of aircraft carriers, backed by destroyers, to perform freedom of navigation exercises to Beijing’s territorial claims are reassuring allies but also prompting concerns with China’s own show of force in the busy waterway.
“It’s a showcase of the capability of the U.S. armed forces not only by sea but also by air,” Philippine army Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista said after joining a tour of the 97,000-ton carrier.
“The Americans are our friends. In one way or another, they can help us to deter any threat,” Bautista said, adding that the American military presence helps secure vulnerable Philippine waters.
At least twice this year, the U.S. Navy has deployed destroyers in freedom of navigation sail-bys near Chinese-occupied Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing wrestled from the Philippines in 2012, and Manila-claimed Mischief Reef, which Chinese forces occupied in 1995.