MANILA, Philippines — For the third time this year, the US Navy deployed its Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group for maritime security operations in the South China Sea.
The carrier strike group comprises forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54).
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) are also part of the group, according to an October 15 report from the US Pacific Fleet.
"While in the South China Sea, the strike group is conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units," the report read.
Read. Adm. George Wikoff, commander of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, said their deployment demonstrates Washington's commitment to the lawful use of the seas.
"The focus of our operations has always been, and will continue to be, cooperation alongside our Indo-Pacific allies and partners in promoting regional stability," Wikoff said.
Meanwhile, the US Navy's 7th Fleet also deployed its destroyer squadrons (DESRON) in the South China Sea to practice operations in a tactical environment.
Personnel of DESRON 7 and DESRON 15 went aboard USS Ronald Reagan for the activity during the exercise Valiant Shield, according to another US Pacific Fleet report also dated October 15.
Capt. Tom Ogden, deputy commodore of DESRON 7, said his team looks for all opportunities to improve warfighting skills.
"Sitting next to DESRON 15 in high-level live training while underway as they executed sea combat commander provided a second to none training opportunity to refine our operational skills; a critically important task as we operate in the dynamic U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility," Ogden said.
DESRON 7 serves as the US 7th Fleet's primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships deployed to Singapore. DESRON 15, on the other hand, is the US Navy's largest forward-deployed destroyer squadron.
In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Washington would be strengthening its maritime claims in the South China Sea, countering China's "bullying" in the contested waterway.
"[China] has no legal grounds to impose its will on the region and claims resources off the coasts of Southeast Asian states," Pompeo earlier said.
More than a month after Pompeo's declaration, the US Commerce Department placed 24 Chinese state-owned firms in its "entity list", blocking exports of US goods and materials.
The sanctions were given to companies involved in building artificial islands in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. — Patricia Lourdes Viray