US, allies holding combined ops in South China Sea in coming months

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United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) commander Admiral Phil Davidson said during US Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing on February 12 that the US forces will continue to operate in South China Sea independently and jointly with allies in the coming months.

“In the operational space, one of the things we’ve been able to do in just the last five months, Senator is get our allies and partners to join us in the South China Sea,” Admiral Davidson said.

He noted that “not all of their operations are defined as freedom of navigation operations as we would define them but their willingness to sail independently in there, to work with us on exercises, demonstrates that the international commitment to maintaining the freedom of those seas and airways.”

“I think it is critically important to messaging China, that it is not just the United States that is concerned about the freedom of the South China Sea but indeed all nations,” he explained

He said he is expecting allies and partners to continue to help in the months ahead, “both with some combined operations that we’ll be executing as well as some individual operations as well.”

Davidson said in his opening statement that “alongside like-minded allies and partners, USINDOPACOM, and the whole of the US government, we must compete in the “gray zone” between peace and war to – win before fighting.”

“These deliberate actions will ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific against those malign actors that seek to accomplish their political objectives short of armed conflict,” he said.