by WorldTribune Staff, June 15, 2016
A Chinese vessel “shadowed” the USS John C. Stennis as the American aircraft carrier joined warships from Japan and India on June 14 for drills in the Western Pacific, officials said.
“There is a Chinese vessel about seven to 10 miles away,” Cpt. Gregory C. Huffman, commander of the Stennis, told reporters aboard the carrier. The Chinese ship had followed the U.S. vessel from the South China Sea, he added.
An unidentified U.S. official played down the “shadowing” by the Chinese observation ship, saying the Stennis had been followed by Chinese vessels in the past and the action in itself was “not provocative.”
“We are getting used to operating in close proximity of Chinese vessels,” the official said.
The Japanese government on June 14 said a separate Chinese navy observation vessel entered Japanese territorial waters south of the southern Kyushu island. China said it was acting within the law and following the principle of freedom of navigation.
The Stennis joined nine other naval ships including a Japanese helicopter carrier and Indian frigates in seas off the Okinawan island chain. Sub-hunting patrol planes launched from bases in Japan are also participating in the annual Malabar exercise.
Japan is deepening alliances it hopes will help counter growing Chinese power. Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo rose after a Chinese warship for the first time sailed within 24 miles of contested islands in the East China Sea.
The U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet plans to send more ships to East Asia to work alongside the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, a U.S. official said on June 13.