An American Navy officer on a very large aircraft carrier filled with F-18 fighters on Saturday said that American troops would continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever "international law allows us" when asked whether the newly built islands of China could curb them in the disputed waters.
US Navy Major Tim Hawkins told the Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson that the Navy had routinely patroled the sea and in the air in the waters strategic for 70 years to improve regional security and ensure uninterrupted trade flows that are critical to Asian and US economies.
"International law allows us to operate here, allowing us to fly here, allowing us to practice here, we are sailing here, and that is what we do and will continue to do, "Hawkins said on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton battleship, which dropped anchor in Manila Bay during a visit to the Philippines.
Read also: America Ships Third Shipwreck to the Western Pacific  The US Navy invited reporters into the 35-year-old carrier carrying 72 aircraft, including the F-18 Hornet, attack helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been trying to withdraw from what he said was a highly US-oriented Philippine foreign policy, but has allowed for enormous dialogue with allied countries while reviving relations previously frozen with China.
American Navy officials flew some members of the Duterte Cabinet and journalists to Carl Vinson for a brief interim briefing from the South China Sea patrol on Wednesday. [gp]