İrem UZUN -TDO- The U.S. Navy has confirmed on Tuesday that two U.S. warships are operating in the South China Sea, with three regional security sources saying they were near an area of a standoff between China and Malaysia. The Haiyang Dizhi 8, a Chinese government research ship, was spotted last week conducting a survey close to an exploration vessel operated by Malaysia's state oil company Petronas. The same act of patrolling had been spotted near to the coast of Vietnam in previous months.

As of Saturday, warship named America was operating with at least five Marine F-35B Lightning II fighters as well as MV-22Bs tiltrotors and CH-53 helicopters as part of the typical Marine air combat element configuration. With the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) temporarily sidelined in Guam, America is currently the most significant operational naval asset the U.S. Navy has in the region as China flexes its maritime presence.

Malaysia and Vietnam, militarily weaker than China, are expected to protest through diplomatic channels over a Chinese survey ship fleet that entered disputed waters this month. In response to the incident the United States was prompted to call on China to stop its “bullying behaviour” in the disputed waters, citing concern over Beijing’s provocative actions towards offshore oil and gas developments there.

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