The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group has been redeployed to the South China Sea following a visit to Singapore, resuming operations in the area despite recent tension between the US and China, Reuters reported Thursday.
The strike group “is continuing normal, scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Hayley Sims told Reuters.
This return comes during an extended diplomatic battle between the United States and China regarding a potential visit by Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, according to Reuters.
The return to these operations follows a five day visit to Singapore, which was described as “hard-earned time off” for the crew by Capt. Fred Goldhammer of the USS Ronald Reagan said in a press release.
Anonymous sources within the U.S. government have said that The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China may declare a no-fly zone over Taiwan should the Speaker visit. The Speaker extended an invitation to select members of the House to join her proposed trip Wednesday.
Dr. Ian Storey, the Singapore-based security fellow at the Yusof Ishak Institute, claimed that Chinese vessels would likely shadow the group during its operations in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.
“Most of the time those interactions are safe and professional,” Storey said, “but there’s always a risk.”
“There is a clear and upward trend of PRC provocations against South China Sea claimants and other states lawfully operating in the region,” said the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia, Dr. Jung Pak, according to Reuters.
Pak cited several unsafe intercepts of Australian aircraft as well as interceptions of peaceful Filipino marine activity within Filipino territorial waters as examples from the past several months.
During the visit to Singapore, the crew of the carrier group volunteered to assist local branches of the Salvation Army, food banks, and a children’s home, according to the 7th fleet press release.
The Seventh Fleet is the largest forward-operating fleet in the U.S. Navy, containing over 50 ships, 150 aircraft and 27,000 sailors and marines at any given time, according to a U.S. Navy fact sheet.
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