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USS America's presence in South China Sea solely to ensure security and stability

KOTA KINABALU: The US Navy will continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea by observing the norms of international law.
Amphibious Squadron Three Commodore Captain Rome Ruiz of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) said American naval presence in the South China Sea is solely to ensure security and stability.
"Our job is to navigate the waters and to just safely navigate on this restricted area because it's just a freedom of navigation exercise.
"From (our) standpoint, we are doing what we always do and that is, we want to make sure that our partners know that we are here to contribute to regional stability," he told reporters during a media tour to the USS America LHA-6 at the Sepanggar Naval Base, here.
He was commenting on Beijing's recent warning against the US from patrolling the South China Sea areas.
According to The New York Times, the warning came after a US Navy destroyer - the USS John S. McCain - had on Aug 10 passed near Mischief Reef, which China has claimed as its territory.
The Chinese Ministry of Defence, on its website, stated that American military presence in the areas would only induce the Chinese military to further build up various defensive capacities.
"We are going to make sure that the norms of international law are adhered to. So, that means we operate how we normally do just like how other countries in this region normally do," stressed Ruiz.
The USS America made its first port of call to the country, docking at the Sepanggar navy base here about 8am, today.
The vessel, measuring a of 257m, has 28 various aircraft on board and other assets.
Carrying 2,500 sailors and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Marines personnel, the ship left Singapore on Aug 9 after docking at the Changi Naval Base for resupply for four days.
"Prior to Singapore, we were just on a transit across the ocean and did some training while on the way.
"Our primary visit here (in Sabah), is to maintain the existing partnership and to be with the Malaysian people, understand the culture and build relationships.
"At the same time, we want to contribute to the economy to the best as we can. We have a lot of sailors and marines joining the military to travel.
"This is the added benefit of their services when volunteering to be in the military," said Ruiz.
He stressed that the relationship between the US and Malaysia was based on mutual respect and professionalism, noting that the visit will further strengthen the partnership.
To a question on whether they will be meeting with the Royal Malaysian Navy to discuss maritime security, Ruiz said there are no plans to discuss policy.
He reiterated that their visit to this country was to pay their respect and to demonstrate their gratitude for the hospitality that the Royal Malaysian Navy extended to them.
Also present were USS America commanding officer Captain Joseph R. Olson and 15th MEU commanding officer Colonel J.R. Clearfield.
The USS America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships.
As the next generation "big deck" amphibious ship, the LHA 6 is optimised for aviation support of Marine-based amphibious operations.
It is capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

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