US 3rd Fleet Expands East Asia Role

US 3rd Fleet Expands East Asia Role

The US Navy's Third Fleet will send more ships to East Asia to operate outside its normal theater alongside the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, a US official said on Tuesday, a move that comes at a time of heightened tensions with China.
The Third Fleet's Pacific Surface Action Group, which includes the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Momsen, was deployed to East Asia in April, Reuters reported. More Third Fleet vessels will be deployed in the region in the future, said a US official who requested anonymity. He and a second official said the vessels would conduct a range of operations, but gave no details.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade pass every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims, as well as close military ties with the United States.
China has been angered by what it views as provocative US military patrols close to islands that China controls in the South China Sea. The United States says the patrols are to protect freedom of navigation.
The Third Fleet, based in San Diego, California, traditionally has confined its operations to the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean's international dateline. Japan's Nikkei Asian Review quoted the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, as saying on Tuesday that the move came in the "context of uncertainty and angst in the region," an apparent reference to China's behavior.
The Seventh Fleet consists of an aircraft carrier strike group, 80 other vessels and 140 aircraft. The Third Fleet has more than 100 vessels, including four aircraft carriers.
Chinese officials have blamed the rising tensions on the United States.

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