The San Diego-based destroyer USS Stockdale patrolled the waters near tiny islands claimed by China in a major U.S. display of force in the South China Sea, the Navy said Saturday.
The Navy said the guided missile destroyer was conducting a routine patrol in international waters as part of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis‘ strike group.
“The strike group is exercising our right to operate in international waters,” said Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, commander of the group. “Our presence here promotes
peace and stability in the region.
“We’ve got vibrant economies in the Western Pacific, and it’s really important for us to be there for our national interests and to ensure that we can keep the sea lanes free,” Boxall added.
China claims almost all of the region and has been developing artificial islands and building runways, missile launchers and sophisticated radar systems.
Navy officers said numerous People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels have been seen during the Stennis group’s patrol.
“We have Chinese ships around us that we normally didn’t see in my past experience,” said Capt. Greg Huffman, Stennis’ commanding officer.
In recent months, other Navy ships have conducted similar operations, including several destroyers, the amphibious assault ship USS Essex and the San Diego-based littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth.
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