US Defense Secretary Ash Carter will visit an American warship in the South China Sea on Thursday, a move aimed at sending a message to Beijing that Washington is determined to maintain a strong naval presence in the region.
Carter will visit the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt along with Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Reuters reported.
“Teddy Roosevelt’s presence there and our visit is a symbol of our commitment to our rebalance (to Asia) and the importance of the Asia-Pacific to the United States,” Carter was quoted as saying Wednesday.
Carter’s visit will come just a week after the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, challenged territorial limits around one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago with a so-called freedom-of-navigation patrol.
Beijing has rebuked Washington over the patrol, and a Chinese navy commander has warned that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the US did not stop its “provocative acts”.
The US Navy plans to conduct patrols within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands in the South China Sea about twice a quarter to remind China and other countries about US rights under international law, an American defense official said on Monday.
In July, Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, was on board a Boeing P-8 surveillance plane as it carried out a seven-hour flight over the South China Sea.
Swift said his flight was routine, but it drew a stern rebuke from China, which said such activities seriously damaged trust between the two countries.
– Contact us at [email protected]