By Press TV
THE USS Ronald Reagan has made a visit to the Philippines amid rising tensions in the South China Sea region.
The carrier docked in Manila on Tuesday after sailing through waters that have been subject of competing claims between China and several countries in the region.
Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, the commander of the nuclear-powered carrier, said that the presence was meant to reassure Washington’s allies that the US would have an enduring presence in the region.
“Countries that are concerned about US commitment can look to the continued routine presence of (the) Ronald Reagan Strike Group as reassurance,” Dalton told reporters on board the Reagan, a giant carrier whose nearly 1,100-foot (335-meter) length exceeds the height of the Eiffel Tower.
The Reagan’s four-day visit to the Philippines, a third for a US aircraft carrier to the country or nearby waters since mid-February, comes amid rising tensions between China and the US over increased military presence in the South China Sea.
Washington insists China has disproportionately increased its deployment in the region, which is also partially claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China, which claims the entire South China Sea, views the US presence in the region as a provocation.
Tensions intensified last month when China landed bombers on a disputed island and missiles on another in the waters. The Pentagon said the deployment was part of China’s “intimidation and coercion”.
The Reagan travels to the Philippines amid efforts by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to set aside differences with China in order to court Chinese investment and trade. Duterte even avoided a direct confrontation with China over reports this month that Chinese Coast Guard personnel had taken Filipino fishermen’s catch in the disputed sea.
Dalton said, however, that Washington will maintain its presence in the South China Sea despite Beijing’s new actions in the region.
“The United States Navy conducts those (patrols) routinely and we will continue to conduct those routinely,” said the US commander.