On Monday, four heavily-armed U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters from Misawa air base in northern Japan flew many hundreds of miles to the South China Sea south of Taiwan and buzzed the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The impressive sortie was part of a powerful American response to China’s month-long maritime occupation of a resource-rich reef inside The Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
American and Philippine ships and planes surged into the South China Sea as a warning to the roughly 220 Chinese militia boats anchored off Whitsun Reef, 200 miles west of The Philippines. The U.S. State Department made it clear—the use of force was on the table.
Beijing blinked—and withdrew its boats. “China realized that its continued presence was simply going to strengthen the resistance,” said Jerry Hendrix, a retired U.S. Navy officer and author of To Provide and Maintain a Navy.