Senior aircraft carrier commander says Pacific is covered
The admiral commanding the aircraft carrier strike group that includes the Yokosuka-based USS George Washington says America’s increased military operations are having a positive effect at reducing tensions in the region.
Rear Admiral Mark C. Montgomery explained in an interview with AFP that “The strategic rebalancing has resulted in an extremely higher number of surface combatants, cruisers and destroyers that support the strike group,” He says the beefing up in the number of aircraft and warships now serving in Asia have provided a stronger influence.
“What we’ve seen is an increase in surface combatant presence here in the Western Pacific… so these ships are spread throughout those areas,” he said, in the interview at the flag bridge of the nuclear-powered super carrier as fighter jets took off and landed on the deck as part of drills. “Having more ships gives us more presence. It allows us to have a greater force.”
The admiral says the partial shutdown of America’s government earlier this month hasn’t affected his operation. Operations and maintenance are ongoing, he notes, adding “The strategic rebalance is continuing in earnest. We have sufficient funds for our operations… there is in fact a strategic rebalancing in place that has resulted in more ships and aircraft being out here.”
He told a reporter the augmentation to the Pacific Fleet by both aircraft and ships from the United States and Hawaii “me a lot more flexibility, a lot more presence.” He met with reporters while the Carrier Strike Group Five was in international waters in the South China Sea during an exercise. The strike group includes the USS George Washington, a guided missile cruiser, a destroyer, a fast attack submarine and supply vessels.
In addition to operating off the Korean Peninsula, his group has been in the South China Sea working with allies, an operating in waters off Japan, in the region where Tokyo and Beijing are butting heads over the Senkaku Islands located in southwestern Okinawa Prefecture. Both Japan and China claim the Senkaku Islands, and China is also in a war of words with four southeast nations over other islands in the region.