TAIPEI (GDC) — The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet announced Wednesday (July 8) that two ships entered the South China Sea after conducting military exercises near the Philippines.
The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Force continued dual carrier operations in the South China Sea.
The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan strike groups conducted several exercises and operations to strengthen warfighting readiness and proficiency in an all-domain environment. Integrated operations included air defense exercises, tactical maneuvering drills, simulated long-range maritime strike scenarios, and coordinated air and surface exercises to maintain combat readiness and maritime superiority.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Seventh Fleet posted an image on Facebook, pointing out the aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, and their strike groups entered the South China Sea from the Philippine Sea via the San Bernardino Strait.
Military expert Chi Le-yi (亓樂義), who specializes in researching China’s People Liberation’s Army (PLA), told CNA that Chinese Xian H-6 bombers have crossed the first island chain in March 2015 and have since gradually reached the Philippine Sea, about 1,500 kilometers away from Guam. This happens to be the effective range of the H-6 bombers equipped with the Long Sword 20 (長劍) long-range cruise missile, which constitutes a threat for the U.S. island territory, he said.
Chi pointed out the U.S. military has strengthened combat readiness in the Philippine Sea in order to monitor the PLA’s air and naval force activities and to take preventive measures, including developing interdiction strategies so the PLA cannot deploy forces that threaten Guam.
Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a senior analyst at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the Philippines announced in June it would suspend the cancelation of the Philippine-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
This move shows that the Philippines, which has rarely criticized China’s land reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea, is returning to a defense alliance led by the U.S. and Australia, Su stated. He added that countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) including the Philippines, are increasingly alert to China’s expansion in the region.
He also said the U.S. carrier groups were expected to travel to the waters of Subic Bay and would almost circle Luzon Island, conveying a strong message of American military support for the Indo-Pacific region and ASEAN’s diplomatic war with China.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), CVW-17, the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104), and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114).
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), CVW-5, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), and is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
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