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More bombers deploy to Guam as U.S. defends Philippine claim to South China Sea against China

Photo and caption credit: Christina Bennett, U.S. Air Force; Stars & Stripes. Two B-1B Lancers conduct a flyover before landing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 17, 2020.

By Nancy I. Maanao

Guam once again is proving pivotal to the nation's defense against its greatest long-term foe: China. The U.S. Air Force Friday deployed two B-1B bombers to Guam, along with 170 airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

The deployment is the latest upsurge in display of American force revolving around the ongoing operations of the carrier strike force groups of the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan in the contested South China Sea.

On July 4, the Air Force deployed the B-52 Stratofortress bomber from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana for a 28-hour mission through the Indo-Pacific before landing at AAFB.

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., lands at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 4, 2020. The B-52 flew a 28-hour mission to demonstrate U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s commitment to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)

According to a news release from the U.S. Air Force on the Fourth of July:

"This was part of a bomber task force dynamic force employment used by U.S. Strategic Command to conduct training with and in support of geographic combatant commands efforts to help maintain global stability and security. These types of missions support the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability and operational unpredictability."

As for this past weekend's deployment of the pair of Lancer bombers, the Air Force said in a statement that the bombers will conduct bilateral bomber task force operations out of AAFB.

Stars & Stripes is reporting that, "They will train with allies, partner nations and other U.S. services. The deployment also supports 'strategic deterrence missions to reinforce the rules-based international order in the region,' the Air Force said."

Tensions have been rising in the region over an historic multi-national claim of sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea involving American interests and the interests of several American allies, including the Philippines.

On July 13, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the U.S. Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The following are excerpts from the statement:

"The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening U.S. policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea. We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them."

"The [People's Republic of China] has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009. In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims."

"The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region."

The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan carrier strike groups were conducting dual carrier operations in the Philippine Sea before moving to the South China Sea in early July.

This is the first time since 2014 that dual carrier American exercises were occurring in the South China Sea.

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