On Sunday, the same day Japan has sent a destroyer to track the Chinese vessels, a US aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt (TRCSG) entered the South China Sea from the Strait of Malacca, according to the Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, citing satellite data.
According to the 7th Fleet statement:
“It is great to be back in the South China Sea to reassure our allies and partners that we remain committed to freedom of the seas,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine. “Over the course of the strike group’s deployment, we have demonstrated our commitment to the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region by operating with our friends from Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea. We look forward to continuing to sail together with all those that embrace our collective vision of security and stability in one of the most important regions in the world.”
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While in the South China Sea, the strike group will conduct fixed and rotary-wing flight operations, maritime strike exercises, anti-submarine operations, coordinated tactical training, and more.
Prof. Ben Schreer, a professor of strategic studies at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the South China Morning Post that the US aircraft carrier’s passage in the South China Sea was meant to counter Beijing’s vast claims over the waters and signal to allies, such as the Philippines, that Washington was a “reliable and capable treaty ally”.
On March 20, about 200 China’s maritime militia vessels showed up in force at Julian Felipe Reef (Union Reef) in the West Philippine Sea(South China Sea), an atoll within the Philippines’ EEZ claim, according to a report from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.
The Chinese Embassy denied the allegation that the ships were Chinese maritime militia ships, according to them the vessels were fishing boats. They said they were only seeking shelter due to “rough sea conditions,” but aerial and maritime patrols this week showed 44 ships are still present.
Defense Secretary of the Philippines said he won’t allow himself to be fooled by the Chinese government. “I am no fool,” he said in a statement, which he also posted on Twitter last April 3. “The weather has been good so far, so they have no other reason to stay there.” “These vessels should be on their way out. Get out of there (Get out of there),” he said.