As China flexes muscle, US reaffirms support to PH with second carrier visit
ABOARD USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Manila Bay — The US sent its aircraft carrier to Manila as part of its efforts to reaffirm its influence and commitment to the region amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) brings about 5,000 of its crew members to Manila for a port visit, as China shows off its military might in the disputed waters. China claims most parts of the South China Sea, while parts of them are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
“[T]here are at times when we should speak loudly and clearly. The presence of Theodore Roosevelt in Manila Bay sends a very clear message to everyone in the region, especially to our friends in the Philippines. Our commitment to the US-Philippines alliance is unbreakable and will remain so indefinitely,” said US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim to an estimated 300 guests aboard the carrier, with the giant flags of the US and Philippines in the backdrop.
.@USAmbManila says the presence of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Manila is ‘a very clear message’ of their commitment to PH-US alliance. The aircraft carrier is in PH for a port visit after patrolling the South China Sea. @inquirerdotnet pic.twitter.com/6aFS8M7ikd
— Frances Mangosing (@FMangosingINQ) April 13, 2018
The US embassy hosted a reception for about 300 military officers, local government officials and business leaders aboard the carrier on its third night in Manila. Some of the invited guests were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Ayala Corporation chairman and chief executive officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Pangasinan Representative Leopoldo Bataoil, Magdalo partylist Representative Gary Alejano and former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, and former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
“The timing of Theodore Roosevelt’s visit is quite fitting. As you know just a few days ago, the Philippines observed the Day of Valor. This day of course is a somber reminder that both of our nations have much larger history,” Kim said.
“The Theodore Roosevelt is a symbol of our commitment to protecting the enduring values that have generated so much prosperity in this amazing region. Values and principles like freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce, freedom from fear and coercion,” he added.
China has carried out large-scale exercises in the South China Sea in recent days. President Xi Jinping oversaw the large drills in the contested waters last Thursday, which involved at least 10,000 personnel and dozens of naval vessels and fighter jets.
The US, a non-claimant country, has no official position in the disputes but has repeatedly asserted its right to freedom of navigation. Before its stop in Manila, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier showcased its abilities through its flight operations in the South China Sea.
“As we sail through this region, and we sail along with many navies in the Indo-Pacific region, we like to promote and ensure that those freedoms are open to everybody. That’s what we’ve done here and that’s what we’ll continue to do here in the region and sail professionally and safely like all other navies that we’ve run into,” said Rear Admiral Stephen Koehler, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt is the second aircraft carrier to visit Manila this year, after the USS Carl Vinson port call last February.
Aside from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, warships of traditional allies Australia and Japan are also in the Philippines for a port visit.
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