Aboard the Nimitz, South China Sea, Jan. 27 (Reuters) – Over the course of a few hours under gray skies, dozens of fighter jets and helicopters fly in and out of the flight deck of the Nimitz aircraft carrier, in a show of American military might in some of its most important areas. One of the most contested waters in the world.
MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and F/A-18 Hornets with pilot call signs like “Fozzie Bear,” “Pig Sweat,” and “Bongoo” emit deafening shrieks as they plunge into Nimitz spray, leading the carrier to strike the group that has entered. South China Sea two weeks ago.
The group’s commander, Admiral Christopher Sweeney, said the tour is part of the United States’ commitment to support free passage in the waters and airspace of a region vital to global trade.
“We’re going to sail, fly and operate wherever international rules and regulations allow. We’re going to do it safely and we’re going to be firm about it,” Sweeney told Reuters on Friday.
“It’s really about sailing and working clearly with our allies and partners in the region and reassuring them of free and open trade in the Indo-Pacific.”
Allies such as Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia have welcomed the US presence in the South China Sea, a channel conducted at about $3.4 trillion annually, but it still angers rival China, which views the exercises as provocations in China. her backyard.
China claims historical jurisdiction over almost the entire South China Sea, which includes the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.
Beijing conducts regular exercises, too, and maintains a large coast guard and fishing vessel presence away from the mainland — a frequent source of tension with its neighbours.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group 11 includes the guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill and the guided-missile destroyers Decatur, Wayne E.Meyer, and Chung-Hoon. On January 5, the Chong Hun sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, angering China.
This came two weeks after a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet sounded an alert when it approached a US Air Force aircraft within 10 feet (3 metres) over the South China Sea.
Sweeney said it is important to follow international rules and said the US presence in the South China Sea shows its commitment to its regional allies.
“We have operated in the same waters as the Chinese Navy, Singapore Navy or Philippine Navy since our arrival and all have been safe and professional,” he said.
“We will sail, fly and operate wherever international waters allow us to, so we are not going anywhere.”
Reporting by Joseph Campbell. Writing by Martin Beatty; Editing by Jonathan Otis
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