The US’ guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea, according to the US Navy.
While in the area, the Stethem completed a refueling at sea with Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship Endeavour, to allow the Stethem to remain mission ready, the Navy said in a press statement.
“Conducting these types of operations with our allies builds proficiency and sustains our ability to maintain a persistent presence throughout the 7th Fleet area of operations,” according to Command Senior Chief William Palmer IV.
During operations, the Stethem has regularly communicated with naval vessels from the People’s Republic of China. Nations utilize the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) to communicate navigational intentions to ensure safe maneuvering.
Since departing Japan earlier this year, Stethem has operated extensively in the Western Pacific. In addition to the current operations in the South China Sea, the ship and its crew operated in the waters off the Korean Peninsula alongside the Carl Vinson Strike Group and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy during the 2017 Foal Eagle exercise. In conjunction with Foal Eagle, Stethem conducted routine port visits in the Republic of Korea, including the island of Jeju-do, where Stethem was the first foreign warship to visit the new Jeju Joint Civil-Military Complex.
Stethem, assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 15, and is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region