The Pentagon is stepping up its strategic messaging targeting China with the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson now underway in the South China Sea.
The Vinson strike group, including the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain and guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, left a four-day port visit in the Philippines on Tuesday.
The carrier will resume operations in the contested sea — close to where China is militarizing several disputed islets, including Scarborough Shoal, some 100 miles from the Philippines.
The Vinson is expected to conduct a “freedom of navigation operation” involving disputed islands in the sea in the coming days. It also is expected to make a port call in Danang, Vietnam, next month.
“U.S. presence matters,” Rear Adm. John Fuller, strike group commander, told reporters on board the warship. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.”
A Navy official was more specific: “Vinson ops in the [South China Sea] are designed to promote freedom of navigation, show the U.S./Navy flag and work with our partners and allies — all to message China that these waters aren’t theirs.”