US to continue South China Sea operation despite naval mishap in Singapore waters

US commander said the naval accident in Southeast Asia will not prevent US from exercising freedom of navigations in the disputed water.

South China Sea
South China Sea Reuters

The United States has announced that it will continue to deploy navy ships in Southeast Asia including in the South China Sea despite the recent collision of the USS John McCain with a shipping vessel in Singapore waters this week.

US Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy said the recent naval accident in Southeast Asia will not prevent US from exercising freedom of navigations in the disputed water, most of which is claimed by China.

The US guided-missile destroyer sailed within the 12 nautical miles adjacent to a China-built island in the South China sea and while navigating the waters southwards, it collided with an oil tanker sea vessel.Ten US sailors have reportedly killed in the accident.

"There is no setback to the operations and we stand firm that we are going to sail and fly anywhere where the international laws allow and this will not overshadow the defense capability the US brings to the region," O'Shaughnessy said, who is expected to visit Southeast Asia this week.

The deployment of USS John McCain to the region came after reports that China has hoisted flag in the West Philippine Sea surfaced. Not only this, it was also reported that 11 China frigates and coastguard were spotted near the China-built island. A Philippine lawmaker announced that a Chinese flag mounted on a steel pipe was found in Sandy Cay in the West Philippine Sea while the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative also published photos that several ships were deployed near Sandy Cay.

Sandy Cay is just three miles away from Pag Asa Island, a Philippine island that is home to 100 Filipinos who are mostly fishermen.

The USS John McCain mishap in the Singapore waters is the fourth major accident of the US navy, following which Admiral John Richardson called on navy officers to review their procedures and training.

The event happened when both Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads with each other over the disagreement with the South China Sea. Though both the counties have been communicating regularly to diffuse tensions, the US navy have been frequenting the disputed waters asserting freedom of navigation, whoch China sees as a provocative move.