US Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and ships from its carrier strike group entered the South China Sea on January 23 for routine operations.
The carrier strike group entered the contested waters after starting a back to back deployment from San Diego on December 23, 2020.
The navy said the aircraft carrier would conduct maritime security operations, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units while in the South China Sea.
While the navy regularly states that aircraft carrier operations are usually not in response to world events or regional tensions, the arrival of USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea coincided with China’s decision to authorize its coast guard ships to open fire on foreign ships in disputed waters. China’s coast guard law that was passed on January 23 could raise tensions in the East and South China Sea, where several countries have overlapping claims to territories.
The US is regularly conducting freedom of navigation operations in the region, challenging whatever excessive maritime claims the countries have. In December last year, the navy carried out two freedom of navigation operations, sailing past China’s Spratly Islands archipelago and Vietnam’s Con Dao Islands in the South China Sea.
“After sailing through these waters throughout my 30-year career, it’s great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine. “With two-thirds of the world’s trade travelling through this very important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote the rules-based order which has allowed us all to prosper. While we miss visiting our allies and partners in the region in person, we’re grateful for all the opportunities we have to operate with them at sea.”
The TRCSG consists of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS John Finn (DDG 113).