Over a few hours under gray skies, dozens of combat planes and helicopters roar on and off the flight deck of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, in a demonstration of US military power in some of the world’s most hotly contested waters.
MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and F/A-18 Hornet jets bearing pilot call signs such as “Fozzie Bear,” “Pig Sweat” and “Bongoo” emit deafening screams as they land in the drizzle on the Nimitz, which is leading a carrier strike group that entered the South China Sea two weeks ago.
US Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, who is commanding the group, said the tour was part of a US commitment to uphold freedom of passage in the waters and airspace of a region vital to global trade.
“We are going to sail, fly and operate wherever international norms and rules allow. We’re going to do that safely and we’re going to be resolute about that,” Sweeney told Reuters on Friday.
“It’s really just about sailing and operating obviously with our allies and partners in the area and assuring them of free and open commerce and trade in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
A US presence in the South China Sea, a conduit for about US$3.4 trillion of annual trade, has been welcomed by allies such as Australia, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea, but it continues to rile rival China, which sees the exercises as provocations in its backyard.
China claims historic jurisdiction over almost the entire South China Sea, which includes the exclusive economic zones of Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Beijing has been conducting regular exercises, and maintains a large presence of coast guard and fishing vessels far off its coasts — a source of frequent tension with its neighbors.
Nimitz Carrier Strike Group 11 includes the guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill and the guided-missile destroyers Decatur, Wayne E. Meyer and Chung-Hoon. The Chung-Hoon on Jan. 5 sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, irking China.
That came two weeks after a Chinese navy J-11 jet caused alarm when it came within 3m of a US Air Force plane over the South China Sea.
Sweeney said it was crucial for international rules to be followed, and said the US presence in the South China Sea demonstrated its commitment to its regional allies.
“We’ve operated in the same body of water as the Chinese or the Singaporean navy or the Filipino navy since we’ve arrived and it’s all been safe and professional,” he said.
“We’re going to sail, fly and operate wherever international waters allow us to, so we’re not going anywhere,” he added.
EMBASSY TRAP? A missionary said that the group had been told they needed to report to the Chinese embassy, but added if they were to walk in, ‘they are gone’ More than 60 members of a Chinese Christian church have been detained in Thailand, supporters said yesterday, raising fears they might be returned to their home country, where they face possible persecution. Deana Brown, one of two American supporters detained along with the church members, said that Thai authorities in the coastal city of Pattaya on Thursday detained the 63 church members, many of whom are children. Thirty-two adult Chinese nationals were charged with overstaying their visas, said Colonel Tawee Kutthalaeng, chief of the Pattaya-area Nong Prue police station. The children were not charged, Kutthalaeng said. The two US citizens were not placed under
China and Brazil have reached a deal to trade in their own currencies, ditching the US dollar as an intermediary, the Brazilian government said on Wednesday, Beijing’s latest salvo against the greenback. The deal would enable China, the top rival to US economic hegemony, and Brazil, the biggest economy in Latin America, to conduct their massive trade and financial transactions directly, exchanging yuan for reals and vice versa instead of going through the US dollar. “The expectation is that this will reduce costs ... promote even greater bilateral trade and facilitate investment,” the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency said in a
India yesterday summoned Canada’s high commissioner in India to “convey strong concern” over Sikh protesters in Canada and how they were allowed to breach the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates. Canadian media reported that hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday over demands for an independent Sikh state, a simmering issue for decades that was triggered again in the past few weeks. Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India. “It is expected that the Canadian government will take all steps which are required to ensure the
The Japanese government has made tackling its falling birthrate a top priority, but with few women involved in official debate on the issue, some are making themselves heard on social media. Japan recorded fewer than 800,000 births last year, the lowest in the nation of 125 million since records began. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has warned the trend threatens “whether we can continue to function as a society,” and fresh focus on the issue has sparked countless articles. However, one in particular, which said Japan has the highest ratio in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of women aged 50