US General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in Kuala Lumpur that America’s military forces retain "credibility... all over the world" despite the four recent incidents, which have raised concerns that the US armed forces are overstretched in Asia. Speaking on August 25, O’Shaughnessy said, "There is no setback to those (freedom of navigation) operations following these incidents." O'Shaughnessy spoke to reporters during a visit to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. "We stand firm that we are going to sail and fly anywhere where international rules allow….Every day, we have operations within the South China Sea and areas surrounding it."

The general said that the latest collision involving a US Navy vessel should not mean a weakening of American resolve and strength. “I don't think that we should let one incident overshadow the great capability that the United States of America brings across all services," he said.

In the fourth such incident this year in the region, the USS John S McCain collided with a tanker near Singapore early Monday. This is the second fatal incident involving the fleet.

The USS McCain had been on its way to Singapore after participating in a "freedom of navigation" mission in which is steamed near a contested island in the South China Sea and showed resolve in the face of China’s growing maritime claims. The US Navy has stepped up such missions in recent years because China has increasingly asserted claims over the entire South China Sea and created island bases and airfields by dredging up sand to build islands.

On Fox News, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, was cagey about what four serious maritime incidents means for national security. He said on Fox:

“When you have four like that, I think that in one of the remarks of the intelligence community is that 'two is a pattern'. To have four in the Pacific Rim area like that you have articulated is such a rare thing. It's a very big ocean and the technology is very exact and of course for good reason. I think secretary Mattis took just the right approach when he said  'We're going to look into this. We're not going to make and suppositions or presuppositions. We're simply going to look at it and let each of these events stand on their own and see if there is any connection or any pattern or see if there is anything there to correct on a systemic basis.' So, it is a little curious but that is about as far as I could go."

The show host noted that the density of shipping in the South China Sea region has multiplied by 400 percent in recent years, adding that "it gets crowded out ther
 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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