US, Australia navies ‘team up’ in South China Sea amid unrelenting Chinese aggression
MANILA, Philippines—American and Australian warships have come together in the South China Sea for joint drills, as China continued to aggressively assert its claim of owning the entire area.
— U.S. Pacific Fleet (@USPacificFleet) April 22, 2020
US amphibious aircraft carrier USS America (LHA 6), Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52), Ticonderoga-class guided missile-cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) have been sailing with Australian frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFG 154) since April 18, the US Navy said in a statement on Wednesday (April 22).
“Their combined operations started with force integration training and maneuvering exercises between Parramatta and Bunker Hill,” the statement said.
The joint drills of the two navies included integrated live fire exercises, coordinated helicopter operations, small boat force protection drills, command and control integration and maneuverability.
USS America, the flagship of the America Expeditionary Strike Group, appeared to be playing the role of USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is currently out of action in the South China Sea after it was sidelined by a coronavirus outbreak that sickened dozens of US sailors aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
A separate statement from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit said the USS America conducted flight operations with its F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft.
The US Navy did not reveal the exact location of the warships, but open sources online indicated that they were close to Malaysian waters, where a Chinese government survey ship, Haiyang Dizhi 8 escorted by China Coast Guard vessels, have been tagging Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas as it conducts exploratory drilling.
The United States has accused Beijing of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to establish full military presence in the South China Sea and control sea lanes.
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