WASHINGTON — The Chief of Naval Operations said the Navy will continue to sail through and fly above the South China Sea, even as China is increasing its pushback against Pentagon operations.
Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, visiting various Asian nations, said on Tuesday during a stop in Jakarta, Indonesia that the United States and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Reuters reported.
One day earlier, while in Manila, Philippines, Richardson said during a news conference that the U.S. will continue implementing freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea. “We do dozens of these operations around the world to indicate our position for … illegitimate claims, maritime claims,” Richardson said, according to the Associated Press.
Richardson’s visit comes as China’s navy wraps up its first ever join exercise with the navies of ASEAN nations.
There have been increasing actions by both the U.S. and Chinese militaries in the South China Sea, which China claims as its territory. Beijing has been militarizing islands and other structures.
Atop the close calls was in September, when the destroyer USS Decatur sailed within 12 miles of two of the Spratly Islands in a freedom of navigation operation action. During that sailing a Chinese destroyer with bumpers on its sides closed to within 45 yards of the Decatur, requiring a quick direction change to avoid a collision.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Southern Theater Command last week, telling the military command of the forces plying the South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” according to the South China Morning Post.
“We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war,” Wei told the military commanders, according to the newspaper.