The Navy's top officer made a trip to the world's most contested waters over the weekend, stopping aboard the carrier John C. Stennis in the South China Sea.
"Everybody in the region is concerned about the stability, peacefulness and the prosperity of this region," Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said in a video posted on his official Facebook page. "As I talk to them, I know it's going to be OK because we have the John C. Stennis Strike Group on station here in the South China Sea."
Richardson spent Saturday and Sunday on the carrier, presiding over the reenlistment of 21 sailors on Saturday evening, according to a Navy release. CNO's visit preceded the high-level Asian security talks in Beijing the U.S. is participating in.
That's a message to China, which lays claim to almost all of the resource rich waters as its territory, said Bryan Clark, retired submarine officer and analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
"Its clearly a show of force," Clark said. "The U.S. is trying to push back on this notion that it's not involved in an area of the world where another major power has moved in to set up shop."
Stennis deployed from Bremerton Jan. 15 on a seven-month deployment. The carrier Ronald Reagan, which is forward-deployed in 7th Fleet, recently wrapped up a maintenance period and departed Japan on June 4 for its summer patrol, raising the possibility of a second carrier headed to the South China Sea before Stennis departs for home.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.