The re-introduction of the Arleigh Burke-class vessel was unveiled on Saturday on the US Pacific Fleet’s official website. According to the statement, the USS Barry will help “promote peace and stability” in the territory.
Cmdr Chris Gahl, Barry’s commanding officer said: “A continued presence in the South China Sea is vital in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“The freedom of all nations to navigate in international waters is critically important.
“Barry’s transit of the Taiwan Strait yesterday ensured the right and instils the confidence of all nations to trade and communicate in the South China Sea.”
Of the vessels purpose, Lt jg Jordan Brooks, one of Barry’s officers of the deck, said: “It is incredible the number of fishing boats and merchants who pass through and conduct their business in these waters every day.
“To accomplish our mission safely, effectively and professionally, Barry constantly works as a team and is always alert and communicating.”
US Navy guided-missile destroyers in the Destroyer Squadron 15, the largest US of its kind, have constantly stayed in the territory.
This month marks the fifth time of the 2020 deployment that Barry has carried out routine missions in the region.
Lt Cmdr Timothy Baker, Barry’s plans and tactics officer, said: “This past April, Barry conducted a Freedom of Navigation (FON) operation around the Paracel Islands and then rendezvoused with the USS America expeditionary strike group for operations in the South China Sea.
“Whether operating independently or as a part of a larger group, Barry serves as a highly visible symbol of the overwhelming force the United States can deploy to defeat aggression.”
The reveal comes as the US called on other nations to oppose China’s dominance in the disputed waters after Beijing built military bases on the atolls.
David Feith, deputy assistant secretary for regional and security policy and multilateral affairs at the US Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Washington would increase the number of “shiprider” accords to counter China’s “aggressive behaviour”.
Mr Feith said: “In some areas, such as the Northern Pacific, stateless fishing vessels display characteristics of Chinese registration.
“In addition, China’s maritime militia – estimated to include more than 3,000 vessels – actively carries out aggressive behaviour on the high seas and in sovereign waters of other nations to coerce and intimidate legitimate fishers in support of the Chinese Communist Party’s long-term maritime strategic goals.”
Under the shiprider agreement, one nation’s authorities are allowed to board law enforcement vessels or aircraft of another country’s while on patrol.
The move to police illegal fishing created concerns among several allies of the US who are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Gilang Kembara, researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Indonesia, said Jakarta would not approve of a militaristic move by the US.
He said: “I think it’s a good thing if the US offers Indonesia cooperation with their coastguard, since the IUU fishing is a criminal activity, so we need law enforcement to fight it.
“But if what they offer is cooperation with the US Navy, and this becomes a [military] issue… that approach is overblown because I don’t think IUU fishing is an existential threat to a nation.”
Jay L Batongbacal, director at the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and law of the Sea, warned of a potential opposition also from the Philippines.
He added: “But [Manila] will probably be satisfied with information sharing on activities at sea, and for at least the last two to three years the government, especially the fisheries bureau, has actually taken advantage of information available from the US on foreign fishing activities in the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).”