DAILY CALLER — Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is set to visit a U.S. Navy carrier group on patrol in the South China Sea in a move that is sure to further inflame tensions with the Chinese government.
The purpose of the visit and the training exercises, conducted by the Stennis Carrier Strike Group and the Philippines, is to remind China that freedom of navigation in the region will remain the norm, even though China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory, Navy Times reports.
“We will continue to stand up for our safety and freedoms, for those of our friends and allies, and for the values, principles, and rules-based order that has benefited so many for so long,” Carter said in an announcement.
The U.S. has continued to sail within 12 nautical miles of disputed islands, and this latest exercises prompted a heated response from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, who said U.S. activities showed “who was the real promoter of the militarization of the South China Sea.”
Several other countries, including the Philippines, have competing claims and a passive aggressive conflict is slowly starting to develop. China relies on private fishing fleets to advance its claims, and Vietnam is now mirroring this strategy. In early April, Vietnam took control of a Chinese ship allegedly providing fuel to fishing ships.
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