Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Power on Display in Pacific ; Show of Strength Comes before Ruling on Beijing's South China Sea Claims

Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Power on Display in Pacific ; Show of Strength Comes before Ruling on Beijing's South China Sea Claims

Article excerpt

Ships carried out exercises in the Philippine Sea as a show of strength before an international court's ruling on China's claims in the South China Sea.

In a show of strength before an international court's ruling on China's claims in the South China Sea, the United States Navy sent two aircraft carriers and their accompanying ships on training drills in the western Pacific Ocean.

The carriers John C. Stennis and Ronald Reagan sailed close together on Saturday in the Philippine Sea as part of air defense and sea surveillance operations that involved 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft and six smaller warships, the United States Pacific Fleet in Hawaii said in a statement.

"We must take advantage of these opportunities to practice war- fighting techniques that are required to prevail in modern naval operations," Rear Adm. John D. Alexander said in a statement.

The operations occurred on the eastern side of the Philippines, in a body of water that is not adjacent to the South China Sea but is close, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet said. China seeks to dominate the western Pacific Ocean as part of its long-term strategy, American strategists say.

The message of the exercise by the two carriers and their attendant warships was unmistakable, and the timing was deliberate, said an American official familiar with the planning of the operation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. It could have been conducted later, he said.

An international arbitration court in The Hague is deliberating a case filed by the Philippines in 2013 against China's claims in the South China Sea, and its decision is expected in the coming weeks.

The Philippines is challenging China's claims to what has come to be known as the nine-dash line, an area that covers almost all of the South China Sea, including waters close to the Philippine coast.

The issue of the nine-dash line is delicate because China has claimed it since ancient times as its territory, and the South China Sea has become part of the increasingly nationalistic vocabulary of President Xi Jinping.

In the past two years, China has built artificial islands equipped with military runways in the Spratly archipelago, inside the line and not far from the Philippines. …

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