Date: Feb. 17, 2018
By: Jim Gomez, The Associated Press
ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, Philippines — A Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft
carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said Saturday that American forces would continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us” when asked if China’s newly built islands could restrain them in the disputed waters.
Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson that the Navy has carried out routine patrols at sea and on air in the strategic waters for 70 years to promote regional security and guarantee the unimpeded flow of trade that’s crucial for Asian and U.S. economies.
“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a visit to the Philippines.
When President Donald Trump came to power, Southeast Asian officials were uncertain how deep the U.S. would get involved in the issues in the South China Sea, where his predecessor, Barack Obama, was a vocal critic of China’s increasingly aggressive actions to assert its territorial claims. [FULL STORY]