The USS Freedom, the first of a new class of U.S. warships arrived in Singapore on Thursday to join the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is responsible for 35 maritime countries and the world’s five largest foreign armed forces, including China, Russia and the Korean peninsula.
The U.S. maintains that Washington would act to counterbalance China's growing influence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, as part of its foreign policy known as the “pivot to Asia” policy that was developed in the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Washington says the U.S. Navy’s presence in Asia would help safeguard “freedom of navigation” alluding to China’s claims of sovereignty over international waters in the region, while insisting that the U.S. would not take sides in the sea disputes between several Asian nations.
At any given time, there are 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the fleet. This includes forces operating from bases in Japan and Guam and rotationally-deployed forces based in the U.S.
Five of the seven U.S. Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the Asia-Pacific—Australia and New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.
The U.S. says its Navy’s presence in the region “is more important than ever,” as it “helps encourage dialogue, promote growth and ensure the free flow of trade, of which the oceans have increased importance.”
The USS Freedom is a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), designed to operate in shallow waters close to the shore. It also requires a much smaller crew of fewer than 100, which allows the Navy to cut costs, an aspect that has drawn criticism that the ship may be too lightly armed and may not survive an enemy attack.
The Navy plans to buy 52 of the new LCS warships in the coming years at a cost of more than $30 billion for a range of missions, including surface warfare, mine-hunting and ant-submarine missions, Reuters news agency reported.
Navy Lieutenant Anthony Falvo, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the ship and a crew of 91 people would be welcomed in Singapore by the U.S. Ambassador, David Adelman, as well as Colonel Timothy Lo, fleet commander of Singapore's Navy, the report stated. He said the ship had completed a series of drills and milestones during the journey to Singapore.
The ship arrived in Singapore days after China accused the U.S. of exacerbating tensions in the region by strengthening its military alliances and expanding its military presence.
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