U.S. sails amphibious assault ship in disputed South China Sea
The USS Wasp was spotted by Filipino fishermen by Scarborough Shoal
WEST PHILIPPINE SEA — The U.S. sailed its USS Wasp amphibious assault ship near a strategic reef claimed by Manila and Beijing that lies 230 km off the Philippine coast, reports the Japan Times.
According to ABS-CBN News, Filipino fishermen near the Scarborough Shoal spotted the U.S. ship on Tuesday.
Fishermen said they saw U.S. aircraft landing and taking off from the ship, about 5 km away from the fishermen's boat.
According to the Japan Times, a U.S. military spokeswoman would not confirm or deny the Wasp's presence, but did confirm that the ship "has been training with Philippine Navy ships in Subic Bay and in international waters of the South China Sea … for several days."
Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and China, was seized by Beijing in 2012 after an extended standoff with Manila.
According to the Japan Times, the Wasp's presence in the South China Sea will likely draw attention from Beijing as it is paired with U.S. Marine Corp's F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters. The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the fighter jet.
Scarborough Shoal is of strategic significance to China in order to solidify its grip over the South China Sea.
In an effort to push back against Chinese behavior near Scarborough, the U.S. Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of the site in January of last year as part of its larger "freedom of navigation operations."
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