US using new naval command for South China Sea operations

October 25, 2016 2:54 pm

The Navy’s USS Decatur destroyer sails towards the Coronado Bridge in San Diego. (File photo)

The US Navy has for the first time used a command center on the American soil to conduct its operations in the South Sea, according to a report, an indication that Washington plans to bolster its presence in the region.
The USS Decatur guided missile destroyer, which sailed close to Chinese islands in the sea last Friday, was under orders from the Navy’s Third Fleet headquarters in San Diego, the Reuters reported Tuesday, citing two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to the report, this was the first time that the operation was being controlled directly from the US soil, instead of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet command in Japan.
“It is the first iteration of what will be a more regular operations tempo,” said one of the sources, who was familiar with the goals of the reorganization.
The move allows the US to carry out simultaneous missions on two fronts in , one source said, pointing to the Korean peninsula and the Philippines as examples.
Following the last week’s mission, Commander Ryan Perry, a spokesman for the Third Fleet in San Diego, confirmed the change of commands, noting that the San Diego base would control future operations by the three-ship Surface Action Group (SAG) that was deployed to the South China Sea six months ago.

A MK 45 5 inch gun is fired during gunnery exercises aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur in the East China Sea, August 22, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Last year, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift had hinted at abolishing an administrative boundary that separated the Third and Seventh fleets.
Before that, Third Fleet vessels crossing the line had to take orders from the Seventh Fleet headquarters.
American officials had told Reuters earlier this year that more Third Fleet ships were on their way to East Asia.
The US has long sought to limit China’s growing maritime influence in the sea, over most of which Beijing claims sovereignty.
Additionally, the US has reached to the sea’s neighboring nations, who have overlapping claims with regards to the sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually.
China does not look favorably upon the US military’s presence in the region, saying Washington is only there to stir regional tensions.
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