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International relations

US Navy plans show of force in South China Sea, report says

Suggested operations intended to deter China following near-collision of warships

Navy ships assemble off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.in July. (U.S. Navy photo)

NEW YORK -- The U.S. Pacific Fleet is preparing to hold a series of operations in the South China Sea next month in a demonstration of force against China, CNN has reported, citing several American defense officials.

The draft proposal "suggests sailing ships and flying aircraft near China's territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in freedom of navigation operations to demonstrate the right of free passage in international waters," the cable news channel said in a Web story first posted on Wednesday.

"The goal is to carry out a highly focused and concentrated set of exercises involving U.S. warships, combat aircraft and troops to demonstrate that the U.S. can counter potential adversaries quickly on several fronts," the story said.

There is no intention of engaging in combat with Chinese forces through these activities, the officials stressed.

The Defense Department told the Nikkei Asian Review that it does not comment on future operations.

Wednesday's report came days after an American warship and a Chinese destroyer almost collided in the South China Sea near the disputed Spratly Islands, following what the U.S. Pacific Fleet called an "unsafe and unprofessional maneuver" by the Chinese vessel.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday accused China of undermining American democracy in a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington and laid out the Trump administration's efforts to confront Beijing, including through bulking up military defenses.

"Despite such reckless harassment, the United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate" wherever international law allows and national interests demand, Pence said of the near-collision of the two warships. "We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down."

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