According to US Navy news releases during the past 24 hours, the USS Stennis cited ‘South China Sea’ on its dateline, with the crew busy conducting damage control drills and advancement exams.
The small armada traversed the area in late February, the same time when Japan’s Murasame-class destroyer JDS Samidare visited it. On February 4, the group crossed the International Date Line into the US Seventh Fleet’s area of operations, a few weeks after its deployment from Washington in mid-January. The Washington Post reports that thousands of US sailors were also deployed to the area.
Meanwhile, American navy officials have been downplaying the significance of their military presence in the disputed waters.
“Our ships and aircraft operate routinely throughout the Western Pacific – including the South China Sea – and have for decades,” US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet said, according to The Navy Times. “In 2015 alone, Pacific Fleet ships sailed about 700 combined days in the South China Sea.”