NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
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U.S. Navy Official Calls for Challenging China's 'Aggressive Behavior' in South China Sea
By Sea and Coast | 28/08/2023
In Manila on August 27, the commander of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, expressed the necessity to challenge and address China's "aggressive behavior" in the South China Sea. He highlighted a recent incident involving China's coast guard using water cannons against a Philippine vessel and stressed the importance of responding to such actions.
Vice Admiral Thomas conveyed unwavering U.S. support to the Philippines in the face of shared challenges within the region. He emphasised the objective of US soldiers' presence, saying, "My forces are out here for a reason."
The Seventh Fleet, the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, is headquartered in Japan and operates a significant fleet of ships and aircraft, along with a substantial personnel count.
Covering a vast area of 124 million square kilometers (48 million square miles), the Seventh Fleet operates from bases in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.
Thomas emphasized the need to respond to "aggressive behavior" demonstrated in the South China Sea, particularly referencing an incident on August 5 when a Chinese coast guard ship used water cannons against a Philippine vessel supplying troops stationed on a warship deliberately grounded on a shoal in the region. This event marked a point of contention between the U.S. and China in the area.
Thomas shared that discussions with Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, head of the Philippine Western Command overseeing the South China Sea, centered around understanding challenges and finding collaborative solutions.
"We certainly shared challenges," Thomas said of his devotion to assisting Vice Admiral Carlos. So I wanted to learn more about how he perceives the activities for which he is responsible. And I want to make sure he understands what I'm offering."
During a port call in Manila, Thomas disclosed his participation in a flight to inspect the South China Sea on Saturday.
The Philippines secured an international arbitration award against China in 2016, invalidating China's extensive sovereignty claim over most of the South China Sea. China's construction of militarized artificial islands in the region and its overlapping territorial claims with the exclusive economic zones of other countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia have fueled tensions.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila has not yet provided a response to inquiries on the matter.