A US Navy flagship has sailed through the South China Sea, with its commander renewing Washington’s vow to “sail, fly and operate wherever the law allows us to” amid China’s objection to US military presence in the disputed region.
US Navy Captain Eric Anduze, commander of the USS Blue Ridge, told reporters on board the US Seventh Fleet’s command ship, which anchored in Manila Bay on Wednesday, that the visit was the latest affirmation of the strong US-Philippine alliance.
“We have a long history,” Anduze said. “We’re here to let you know that that partnership is stronger than ever.”
Asked if his contingent had encountered the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy in the region, Anduze said it had, adding that “all of our interactions were safe and professional.”
“We sail, fly and operate wherever the law allows us to,” he said.
Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, commander of the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, said in a statement that the Blue Ridge’s Manila visit strengthens “our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month in a visit to Manila said that the US is committed to ensuring that the South China Sea remains open to all kinds of navigation and that “China does not pose a threat” of closing the disputed sea lanes.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) said in Beijing that China and countries around the South China Sea are committed to maintaining regional peace and stability, citing efforts to negotiate a “code of conduct” aimed at preventing disputes from escalating.
“If countries outside the region, such as the United States, really keep in mind the peace and well-being of the regional people, they should not stir up troubles in the region,” Lu said.
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