World

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

In a span of 20 minutes, 20 F-18 fighter jets took off and landed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, in a powerful display of military precision and efficiency.

The nuclear-powered warship, leading a carrier strike group, was conducting what the US military called routine training in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday before heading for a port call in the Philippines, a defence treaty ally.

The US is not alone in carrying out naval patrols in the strategic waterway, where Chinese, Japanese and some South-east Asian navies operate, possibly increasing tensions and risking accidents at sea.

"We have seen Chinese ships around us," Rear Admiral Steve Koehler, the strike group commander, told a small group of reporters on board the three-decade-old carrier.

"They are one of the navies that operate in the South China Sea but I would tell you that we have seen nothing but professional work out of the ships we have encountered."

The USS Theodore Roosevelt's presence 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 display of Beijing's growing naval might.

China's navy yesterday also released a warning on social media that they would be holding drills until tomorrow in the region south of Sanya city.

The US has carried out regular air and naval patrols to assert its right to freedom of navigation in stretches of a sea China claims largely as its own.

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

"They (China) certainly have the right to exercise off their coast like we do, nor are they necessarily in charge of our transit cycle, but our deployment's been planned," Rear Admiral Koehler said.

But Philippine army chief Rolando Bautista said of the demonstration: "It is a showcase of the capability of the US armed forces." - REUTERS

WORLD