Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan conducts flight operations off Luzon
ABOARD the USS Ronald Reagan — In a show of force in the region gripped by maritime disputes, the United States’ only forward-deployed aircraft carrier conducted flight operations off the eastern Luzon on Wednesday.
“The visit of the Reagan is a symbol of partnership and the alliance that we have with the Philippines,” US Embassy spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay told reporters.
Gangopadhyay said the USS Ronald Reagan’s next port visit will be in Manila.
A nuclear-powered supercarrier of the United States Navy, the USS Ronald Reagan is based in Yokosuka, Japan. It carries over 5,000 sailors, around 150 of whom are Filipinos.
Before heading to the Philippine waters, the aircraft carrier also conducted flight operations in the South China Sea over the weekend, a move which did not sit well with China.
Chinese publication Global Times said that the operations of the USS Ronald Reagan will encourage the Philippines to conduct what they deem to be “provocations” against China even as Manila conducts maritime activities inside its exclusive economic zone.
“The US aircraft activities in the South China Sea came at a time when the Philippines has been repeatedly making provocations over China’s islands and reefs in the region,” Global Times said on Oct. 23.
Gangopadhyay pointed out that the visit of the aircraft carrier in the Philippines is a regular occurrence.
“I would just say that these visits are part of our alliance, they happen all time in regular intervals,” he said.
“Other governments can read into it if they will, but we have an ironclad alliance with the Philippines,” he added.
Gangopadhyay said the visit of the carrier in the region was weeks in the making, but it came at a time when Beijing conducted activities that Manila considered as a “serious escalation.”
On Sunday, A China Coast Guard and militia ship hit a chartered boat and a Philippine Coast Guard vessel on a resupply mission to the grounded BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“I just want to applaud the Philippine government for bringing transparency in the supply missions to show their exercise of their sovereign rights in resupplying the brave sailors and marines aboard the BRP Sierra Madre,” said Gangopadhyay.
“I also want to express my support to the Philippine media for being transparent and open in showing what’s going on in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
Mutual Defense Treaty
China’s latest action was met with a torrent of condemnation from Manila’s western allies, particularly the US, which reaffirmed its support in line with its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the country.
Signed on August 30, 1951, the MDT states that both nations would support each other if an external party attacked either the Philippines or the United States.