Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the USS John C. Stennis Friday as the aircraft carrier and its San Diego-based escorts patrolled the South China Sea, a region where China is attempting to expand its territorial claims.
Though based in Bremerton, WA, the Stennis was in San Diego in January as the Navy assembled the “Great Green Fleet” with biofuel-powered escorts, including the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and the guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale and USS William P. Lawrence.
Carter flew to the Stennis in a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey from the Philippines and was accompanied by Philippine Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin.
The defense secretary said his presence was a message to the Philippines about the strength of the U.S. alliance and the U.S. commitment to the region.
“The United States intends to continue to play a role out here that it has for seven decades — keeping peace and stability, which has allowed the Asian miracle of prosperity and political and economic development, each according to their own wishes to happen,” Carter said.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea — an international waterway through which a third of the world’s cargo passes. The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia dispute these claims.
China has built artificial islands on various reefs in the South China Sea to bolster its claims, and the U.S. has sent destroyers on patrols near the islands in a show of force.
“In international affairs, disputes should be resolved peacefully, and not by changing the status quo unilaterally,” Carter said. “And we’re against that by any of the claimants.”
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