|The USS George Washington sails near Guam|
Two of the US Navy’s global force aircraft carrier strike groups are currently patrolling the Western Pacific within distance of the South and East China Seas, providing “a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the United States and its allies and partners,” the US Seventh Fleet has said.
US Navy officials said the USS George Washington carrier strike group had begun operating near the East China Sea — recently the scene of escalating tensions between Japan, China and Taiwan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — while the John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG), led by the USS John C. Stennis carrier, is now operating near the South China Sea, also the scene of sovereignty disputes involving China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
US Pacific Command (PACOM) said the JCSSG paid a scheduled port visit at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, on Sunday. This was the first visit by a US carrier in Sabah, which adjoins the South China Sea. The JCSSG is currently with the Seventh Fleet area of operations for training and will eventually rejoin the Fifth Fleet in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the USS Bonhomme Richard forward-deployed amphibious assault ship, with about 2,000 marines on board, along with two escort vessels, is said to be operating in the Philippine Sea.
All three carrier battle groups took part in joint live-fire exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces near Guam last month, drills that also included beach landings. A spokesman for PACOM said the exercises and carrier deployments were not necessarily related to the Diaoyutai dispute.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.