After China’s massive drill, US patrols disputed South China Sea


ON BOARD OF USE THEODORE ROOSEVELT, South China Sea: In 20 minutes, 20 F-18 fighter jets took off and landed on the USS aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, in a powerful demonstration of military precision and efficiency.

The nuclear-powered warship, leading an aircraft carrier attack group, was carrying out what the US military called routine training in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, bound for a port stopover in the Philippines, an ally of the defense treaty.

The United States is not alone in the conduct of naval patrols in the strategic waterway, where the Chinese, Japanese and some navies of Southeast Asia operate, possibly increasing tensions and risking accidents at sea.

“We’ve seen Chinese ships around us,” Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, commander of the strike group, told a small group of reporters aboard the three-decade-old aircraft carrier.

“They are one of the marinas that operate in the South China Sea, but I would say that we have not seen anything but the professional work of the ships we have found.”

The navies in the western Pacific, including China and nine Southeast Asian countries, have been working on a code of unexpected encounters (CUES) at sea to avoid conflicts.

The presence of USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea comes days after China’s massive air and naval drills in the area, in what some analysts described as an unusually large sample of Beijing’s growing naval power.

China’s growing military presence in the waters has fueled concern in the West over the end of the Beijing game.

The United States has criticized the apparent militarization of artificial islands by China and has carried out regular air and naval patrols to affirm its right to freedom of navigation in sections of a sea that China claims to be largely its own.

“This transit in the South China Sea is nothing new in our planning cycle or in reaction to that, it’s probably by chance that all that is happening at the same time,” said Koehler, who toured the company to Philippines military officers and observed flight operations aboard the 100,000-ton warship.

“All the operations we do in and around the South China Sea or any of the bodies of water in which we operate, are a function of international law and that is what we finally want to recognize,” Koehler said.

Tension between the United States and China over trade and territory under US President Donald Trump has increased recently, with fear in the region that the South China Sea, vital to world trade, may one day become a field of battle between the two rival powers. .

Philippine relations with China have heated up as President Rodrigo Duterte has put aside the disputes with Beijing and wants him to play a key role in the construction and financing of urgently needed infrastructure, from highways and ports to railroads and plants of energy.

China has long opposed US military operations off its coasts, even in areas that Washington insists are free of international passage.

“They (China) certainly have the right to exercise their coast like us, nor are they necessarily in charge of our transit cycle, but our deployment has been planned,” Koehler said.

While the crew in color-coded uniforms ran to meet dozens of planes that took off and landed, the “manipulators” in the flight deck control made sure that the platform had enough space for the planes to maneuver and stock up. fuel with the help of an “Ouija plate”.

The board has all the models of each plane, which are marked with the name of the squadron, model, brand and personnel number. At any given time, the flight deck is home to dozens of aircraft and helicopters.

“It is a showcase of the capacity of the armed forces of the United States,” Philippine army chief Rolando Bautista said of the demonstration.

“Since Americans are our friends in one way or another, they can help us deter any threat.”